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Sneak Peeks at Mozilla and Opera Web Browsers
The Opening War of the Millennium?
January 5, 2000
If there's one piece of Linux software that's essential in the Internet age, it's the ubiquitous Web browser. Virtually every Linuxite uses a Web browser on a daily basis -- usually Netscape Communicator, which is bundled with every major Linux distribution and released under an open-source license.
But Netscape Navigator is getting a little long in the tooth, which is why Mozilla.org -- the Netscape-sponsored body that oversees Netscape-related open-source development -- is preparing the next generation of the Web browser that ignited the Internet revolution. However, there is some potential competition to Netscape Communicator's relative monopoly in the Linux world, as Opera Software develops a version of the Opera Web browser for Linux. Opera has a small but loyal following, and although Opera Software doesn't play by the same rules as Netscape does -- Opera is unabashed commercial software, and Opera Software gives no indication that any sort of open-source licensing scheme has ever been considered -- Netscape's entrenched position will certainly make things difficult for a new Web browser to compete.
We download both versions -- an alpha version of Opera (4.0a) and the latest prerelease of Mozilla (M12) -- to see how the next-generation Web browsers compare. Opera installed just fine on Slackware 7.0 and Corel Linux 1.0 boxes, but Mozilla refused to install on the Corel Linux box, as the installation procedure choked on a shared library.
The first thing that crosses your mind when you load the newest release of Mozilla is that the art director from Details or some other trendy downtown magazine has taken over control of the design. It's not that the interface has been totally revamped (indeed, things are pretty much where you'd expect them to be), but rather that individual elements have been updated and modernized (as you can see from the screen shots). It's definitely a trendy look and a big departure from previous Netscape styles.
Move past the interface and you'll find some nifty new features. The Wallet feature allows you to store personal information locally (such as your address and credit-card info) and then use it to automatically fill out forms in an e-commerce setting. A new Search capability allows you to perform searches on your local computer. New "SmartFind" features allow you to sort and search through your bookmarks using Boolean logic, as opposed to the sheer brute force searches used in Netscape.