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New engine for Mozilla code

Netscape upgrades an integral piece of its browser and sheds some light on when users will be able to get a new Navigator.

Netscape Communications announced an upgrade today to an integral piece of its browser, and in the process shed some light on when users will be able to get a new Navigator.

The company announced that its new browser "rendering engine"--the core piece of software that turns HTML code into a readable Web page--is now under development. Code-named Raptor, it eventually will replace the current rendering engine in Navigator and in the Mozilla source code.

In a "rough timeline" of Raptor development, Netscape is shooting to integrate it into the main Mozilla source code by September. Once that happens, the company will be able to "do additional work" to release a Netscape-branded browser with the Raptor functionality, according to Eric Byunn, Communicator group product manager. In other words, don't expect an overhaul of the current Netscape browser line at least until the fall.

"This gives you broad guidelines of how things are going in the broader Mozilla development world, which is obviously closely tied to the Netscape development world," said Byunn.

The terminology can be confusing, but it's important to note that the Mozilla browser--the source code compiled and turned into an executable program--is not the same as Navigator. Navigator is Netscape's version of that source code and has additional features, such as Java and encryption capabilities, which the Mozilla source code lacks.

Between now and September, Netscape will give Raptor support for HTML 4.0; cascading style sheets (or CSS, with limited support for CSS 2); backward compatibility with Navigator 4.0 and Internet Explorer; Extensible Markup Language (XML); the Resource Description Framework; and the document object model (DOM), which is the overarching specification commonly known as dynamic HTML.

Before it made its dramatic strategic shift in January, Netscape was working on a Java-based rendering engine code-named Gemini. That has been shelved, however, and Raptor is built in C and C++. Raptor is also being tuned for speed, according to the project overview.

Netscape is also asking developers to help with the Raptor project, especially in building versions for Macintosh and Unix.