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Netscape plans Web site unit

Netscape is expected to announce it is forming a new unit to focus only on its Web site business, according to company executives.

Netscape tomorrow is expected to announce it is forming a new unit to focus only on its Web site business, according to company executives.

This is another example of Netscape's effort to beef up its Web site as an Internet "portal" to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo, Excite, and America Online, among others. It also shows how Netscape's business is changing now that it is offering its Internet browser for free. The Web site accounts for a major chunk of Netscape's sales.

The company's Web site unit will be headed by Mike Homer, who will hold the title of executive vice president and general manager. It will include a dedicated group of sales, marketing, and operations personnel, the executives said.

Homer will report directly to chief executive Jim Barksdale. Homer now is executive vice president of sales and marketing. Barksdale will handle some of those duties on a temporary basis.

As reported, Netscape is expected to detail partnerships in one to two months, in its quest to become a full-fledged Internet portal site. Features are expected to include 10 to 15 content channels, community chats, search and free email. Netscape now is negotiating these deals, in some cases with search-engine companies that it may compete against.

Competition will be fierce, however. Netscape's challenge is to create compelling features. Many users go to the page because it is a default site for Netscape browser users.