Netscape is releasing an "enhancement" to Microsoft?s Internet Explorer browser, dubbed Netscape TuneUp for IE, in an attempt to woo users to its Web site.
The 40 KB program can be downloaded free from Netscape?s site and installed with a single click of the mouse. It gives IE users access to two key features in Navigator 4.5, Smart Browsing and What?s Related, and adds them to archrival Microsoft?s IE 4.0 offering.
"The features we are adding to the browser, are features that bring users to our site," explained Ken Hickman, Netscape?s product manager.
The catch, however, is that IE users who install the software find they are sent to Netscape Netcenter every time they open their browser. But, while TuneUp makes Netcenter the default home page, this can be altered.
"Smart Browsing", on the other hand, enables Communicator 4.5 users to type in brand names such as "Ford" or generic terms such as "cars" directly into the URL window of the browser.
"Ford" will send users to www.fordvehicles.com, while "cars" will send them to the automobile section of Netcenter, but this latter search has come under criticism for not being generic enough.
Atlhough Netscape TuneUp for IE works with Internet Explorer 4.0 and above, Netscape warns that it has not yet been sufficiently tested with the newly released beta of Internet Explorer 5.0.
Internet Explorer 5.0 has similar search and browsing features of its own, although they are less deeply integrated with Microsoft?s Web sites.
This, according to Ron Rappaport, an analyst with Zona Research, is because Big Green cannot be seen to link its browser too tightly with its own MSN portal site given the ongoing antitrust trial with the US Department of Justice.
IE 5.0 also includes a new search "pane" that enables users to undertake simultaneous searches on multiple search engines, while a new feature called Web Accessories enables other portal owners to extend IE by adding hooks into their sites.
But Rappaport said he is taking a wait and see attitude to the trend among vendors of tying their browsers closely into their Web sites, adding that it may bring about a dangerous situation in future.
"Netscape does own the dominant share of the browser market and this software advantage allows them to get people to come to their site. If that goes too far, the other portals like Lycos or Yahoo won?t take it lying down", he explained.
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