Netscape’s new Web browser and server toolkit take Web surfing to a higher plane and lead the way to a future in which video and audio play live on-screen.
With integrated e-mail, Usenet News, FTP, and chat, Netscape Navigator 2.0 is designed to be the only application users need to navigate the Net. The company’s Livewire server-development software complements Navigator 2.0 and supports the creation and maintenance of Web sites with multimedia elements called "live objects."
The introduction of a new multimedia browser with a tightly coupled Web server development toolkit could give Netscape a dominant position on the rapidly evolving Internet. Its current Navigator browser is used by 75 percent of Web surfers, and the company sells a line of commercial Web servers.
Unlike previous versions, Navigator 2.0 adds more than basic support for e-mail and Usenet News. It treats messages as HTML documents and allows users to send, receive, and post messages with embedded pictures, movies, sounds, and live links. Users also can send and receive encrypted messages (the program uses S-MIME for e-mail, SSL over NNTP for news).
A separate version called Navigator Gold will include Navigator 2.0 plus an authoring tool for creating complex Web pages.
Navigator 2.0 will load JPEG images three times faster, according to Netscape. In addition, the browser supports secure commercial transactions through a new Secure Courier feature developed by Netscape, MasterCard, and VeriSign.
Another new feature called "frames" allows Web pages to be divided into multiple sections that can display changing content and be controlled by users separately–for example, a scrolling table of contents. Frozen frames (called "ledges") can be used for persistent content like advertisements and controls.
A major new development in Navigator 2.0 is support of multimedia "inline viewers" that allow Web pages to play and display audio, video, and animation online rather than having to download the clips first. These "live objects" can include sounds that play when a page is accessed, animation clips that dance along a page, and any applications written in Sun Microsystem’s Java programming language.
Navigator 2.0’s scripting language (a Java subset) allows you to orchestrate events–such as the playing of sounds and the changing of backgrounds.
Navigator 2.0 will support viewers and players from a host of multimedia vendors, including Adobe, Apple, Macromedia, Progressive Networks (makers of RealAudio), and Sun. Viewers and players not bundled with Navigator 2.0 will be made available via CD-ROM and at Netscape’s Web site (http://home.netscape.com).
The authoring program in Navigator Gold adds tools for creating Web pages that take advantage of Navigator’s new capabilities. The program allows for drag-and-drop positioning of text, images, form elements, and live objects. A new inline viewer lets users create pages that include QuickTime movies or Acrobat documents, and the software supports the new frames feature.
Livewire is a professional development tool for creating, deploying, and maintaining entire online applications systems. Designed as a graphical interface for Web site administration, it includes a link checker, which allows Webmasters to map an entire site and check all its external links. It also enables administrators to implement programs based on Java and includes a script compiler for writing or porting CGI programs–which the company says are now obsolete–to the Netscape Netsite Web server. A Livewire Pro version allows Web administrators to access most types of relational databases. Livewire Pro comes with a version of Informix’s OnLine DBMS.
Beta versions of Navigator 2.0 are available online for free on the Netscape home page. Navigator 2.0 ($49) and Navigator Gold ($79) are slated to ship in January and will run on Windows, Macintosh, and X/Windows systems. Netscape said its Livewire versions would be priced at $400 to $1,000 and would be available at the end of the year. The company also announced a new program in which customers can purchase a yearly "subscription" to get all the latest upgrades as they are released. For more info, send e-mail to [email protected] or call (415) 518-2555