As expected, Netscape Communications officially announced today a new beta version of its browser, christened as Navigator 3.0.
At the same time, VeriSign will this week launch a service to issue digital certificates for Navigator 3.0, a development that will significantly boost the level of security for Internet communications.
The beta version of Navigator 3.0 is little more than a renaming of a "preview release" of the browser code-named Atlas that was posted on the Net last month. But Navigator 3.0, available now from the company's Web site does come with some new features not available in the Atlas version, including the Netscape Administration Kit, a set of management capabilities for customizing directory buttons, the help menu, and other Navigator features.
Netscape will also announce a deal this week at Internet World with Apple Computer to incorporate QuickTime and QuickTime Conferencing in Navigator.
Netscape has maintained a frenetic pace of beta releases of Navigator. As recently as last Tuesday, the company posted another beta of Navigator under the Atlas moniker.
Like the latest release of Atlas, Navigator 3.0 includes:
--improved frames support.
--Secure Sockets Layer 3.0 encryption support.
--a host of plug-ins and helper applications, including audio and video players, Live3D Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) viewer, and CoolTalk Internet telephone and whiteboarding tool.
As of presstime, the company had posted release notes for Navigator 3.0 but not the actual software. The final release of Navigator 3.0, which is available for Windows 95, 3.1, Macintosh and Unix, is scheduled for release in the second quarter.
Taking advantage of built-in support for digital certificates in Navigator 3.0, VeriSign will this week officially launch an online digital certificate authority, called the Digital ID Center.
The service, which has been demonstrated publicly before, allows users to download a piece of software akin to an electronic passport so that email and browser users can prove their identity to servers. Distinct from encryption technology, the authentication capabilities of digital certificates will provide automated sign-ons to membership-based Web sites, as well as increased security between email correspondents.
VeriSign, which will not charge Navigator users for low-level digital certificates, also plans this week to begin issuing certificates to users of email packages that support the secure multipurpose Internet mail extension (S/MIME) security standard and eventually to users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The company already issues digital certificates for all major commercial Web servers.
Two weeks ago, Netscape announced its new Certificate Server, which will allow companies to issue their own digital certificates.
Marc Andreessen, Netscape's vice president of technology, will reportedly be the first recipient of a digital certificate from VeriSign.