AOL's Greed Destroys Netscape Navigator 6


     How fitting that AOL's new engine for Netscape Navigator 6 is named Gecko. Gorgon Gekko's motto, you remember from the movie, Wall Street, was GREED. AOL's greed has indeed destroyed Netscape Navigator 6. Yet no one seems to be aware of Netscape Navigator 6's destruction--or they just don't care.

     Before writing this article I reviewed a number of national computer magazines to see if they included articles on AOL's destruction of Navigator 6. None did. However, they all featured articles on the wondrous new dynamic of Navigator 6, obsequious reports based on no in-depth analysis of the ruined browser but certainly not motivated by their large advertising income from AOL, certainly not.

     Those of us who've been Netscape Navigator's champions--since it took over from the remarkable Mosaic browser in the early 1990s--were greatly dismayed when AOL bought Netscape. The Navigator browser was our favorite; we defended it against the evil black knight, Microsoft, and its dread Explorer browser. So we stayed with Navigator even when Explorer reverse engineered most of Navigator's outstanding features and offered Explorer free of charge.

     I expected AOL to destroy Netscape 6's look and feel, since everything AOL touches turns to dreck. But I certainly wasn't prepared for the horror that stared me in the face when I first started up Netscape 6.

One-third of the browser window--
My Sidebar
--now hucksters AOL's advertisers or AOL's own rackets. It's symptomatic of AOL's continuing efforts to make it almost impossible to even get to the Internet. They want you to stay in their high-pressure commercial domains and not bother with the other sites out there in cyberspace.

     The Navigation Toolbar (above) has the same unprofessional look about it we've come to expect from AOL. A major reason for my disappointment in Netscape 6 is its devolution from Netscape 4.x. N4's Location Toolbar (below) still had a professional look to it.

AOL's Total Disregard for the Internet Public

      I'm most appalled by AOL's destruction of Navigator 6 because as a publisher of CD-ROM books written in DHTML, I've been recommending--and writing to--Netscape 4.x as the browser with which to display our books; and now in one fell swoop AOL has created the monstrosity of Netscape 6 which is totally non-backward compatible with documents written for Navigator 4.x. AOL has given no rationale for this complete obliteration of DHTML document compatibility. It just assumes that it can create a new browser with total disregard for the Internet public.

      I hope AOL proves to be wrong in its presumption that it can trample on the public's needs and still prosper. I for one now find myself in the unusual position of recommending Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) as the preferred browser for the books we publish and for Internet users in general, including my college online students.

      Incidentally, each of the areas of damage AOL has done in N6 may seem like a small and nit-picky thing. But if you can imagine a book with hundreds of documents (pages) which have to be recoded--just because AOL doesn't care if it wreaks havoc--then you can begin to get a feeling for the dismay that a great many Internet document writers are experiencing.

The Top Ten AOL Atrocities in Netscape Navigator 6

      The list of atrocities AOL has perpetrated in Navigator 6 are almost endless. However, I'll list and illustrate the Top Ten most heinous of their offenses:
  1. The first thing one encounters when activating Netscape Navigator 6 is an oversize graphic which remains on the screen for at least 15 seconds while N6 tries to become your Web server.

  2. In Navigator 4.x (N4), we could use JavaScript cookies to read data which users input. This is particularly helpful for instructors to record test item input and grades. Now, with no regard for users, AOL has made it impossible to use cookies in HTML documents.

  3. With N4, you could display HTML document revisions by right-mouse clicking and selecting Reload. With N6, it's often necessary to reload a document by going through the time-and energy-consuming process of clicking on File and Open File.

  4. When N6 reloads it displays the document at the top or anywhere else it chooses, not where you were when you last visited the document. N4 reloaded the document at the location in the page where you had last been.

  5. With N6, when you right mouse click on an image it won't give you the name of the image--as N4 and IE 4 or 5 do. Yes, you can see the image file name if you click on Save Image As, but we don't always want to save an image, just see what its name is.

  6. If you're an HTML document writer, you know that many Web pages involve tables. And you know that HTML tables involve starting a table with <table>, starting each table row with <tr>, and each row cell with <td>. In writing HTML documents to N4 (or IE 4 or 5), you were not required to turn off each table cell with </td>. You guessed it, N6 requires that you turn off all your <table>, <tr>, and <td> coding--which demands a great deal of unnecessary time.

  7. If you want Help with N6 you have to be connected to the Internet and retrieve the help file from AOL's site. Many HTML document developers write and display pages from their hard drive, without being connected to the Internet. To require a user to be connected to the Internet to receive help is another of AOL's ways of showing contempt for Internet users and developers.

  8. With N4--and IE 4 or 5--a user could use the HTML coding
    <ul type="bullettype"> to select the type of bullet you wanted in your ordered or unordered lists. You guessed it--with N6 you can't make that choice.

  9. DHTML animations which work in N4 and IE 4 or 5 not only won't work in N6, but the document displays garbage.

  10. And the number 10 reason Internet users don't like AOL's Netscape Navigator 6 is because it really isn't 6 at all, it's Navigator 5. AOL is calling it Navigator 6 to make the public think this is better and higher (in number) than IE 5. Navigator's version 5 was so buggy that AOL merely passed it by and went to 6.

Hope For the Future

     AOL has, unfortunately, been successful in giving away CD-ROMs with free Internet access time on them--and thereby capturing a lot of naive Internet users. A customer is required to provide an abundance of private information to receive the free access time, including their credit card number and expiration date. A number of people have consequently received items through the mail that they didn't order. It turns out that their credit card number was used to order the goods or services without their permission.

     Netscape Navigator 6 is a product in that same vein, AOL foisting a lot of self-serving commercial nonsense on the user. Fortunately, Internet users are become more savvy and we can hope a growing number will see through AOL's destruction of Netscape Navigator 6 and demand an improved product. They might get it, because it couldn't get any worse.