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Netscape update patches some holes

Netscape releases a browser update that patches security holes and expands instant messenging capabilities.

Netscape Communications today released a browser update that patches security holes, expands instant messenging capabilities, and lets users find stock quotes through the address bar.

Netscape's Communicator version 4.51, the first minor point release since 4.5's October release, patches a trio of security holes discovered in recent months by independent bug hunters.

These include holes that permitted frame-spoofing and window-spoofing, and one that mishandled caching metatags in a way that could have exposed private information in shared computing environments.

Two other holes recently acknowledged, including one that permitted a file-stealing trick, and another that exposed a variety of private data, were not entered into Netscape's bug system (known within the company as "Bugsplat") in time for today's release. Netscape said it would fix these two in a subsequent update.

One new feature now effective for Communicator version 4.06 and higher lets users get stock quotes directly from the browser's address bar. Dubbed "Quotes Anywhere," the feature lets users type the word "quote" and a stock ticker symbol in the address bar to pull up a results page from the Netcenter Finance channel.

Netcenter, Netscape's portal site, hosts the databases that power Communicator's "Smart Browsing" features, which let users perform search queries directly from the address bar rather than a traditional engine and find related sites through Communicator's "What's Related" button.

Quotes Anywhere is a new example of how Netscape is using its browser to drive traffic to Netcenter. With the feature, Communicator users inclined to save a step may wind up using Netcenter's stock quotes rather than those of a competing portal or investor site.

Version 4.51 also comes with America Online's Instant Messenger software version 2.0, which has group chat capabilities.

AOL is poised to buy Netscape pending a Netscape shareholder vote March 17 and a green light from the Justice Department (DOJ). Netscape's support for Instant Messenger long predates the two companies' merger talks.