WINDOWS Magazine, July 1997
Rev Up the Web for Free || Editor Mike Elgan on the Web ||
Message Exchange || Reviews and Related Resources || July Issue ||
Go to Cover Story Online Front Page



Well Connected
Browsers Get Better
Perfect Plug-Ins
Useful Utilities
Find It Fast
Cookie Monsters
Search Success

Modem Mastery
Quick Connections
Ready, Willing and Cable
Tune In to the Web

If You Build It, They Will Come
Construction Sites
Picture This
Sounds Good
Action ... Reaction
The Next HTML

A Host of Hosts
Serve Yourself
Watch What Gets In
Know Who's Visiting
Find a Gracious Host
Get Surfers to 'Hit' on You

The Top 20 Business Sites

Browsers Get Better

If you're making a list of Web browsers, you can stop after Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. With 92 percent of the browser market between them, there's little competition for these two excellent products-except, of course, each other. And the IE-Navigator rivalry is heating up again with new versions about to roll out of both software shops. Betas of each browser's 4.0 versions are available as downloads-and shipping versions are due any day now-but if you don't want to walk on the wild side, stick with the stable 3.0 versions, which have been shipping for about a year.

With similar underpinnings, Navigator 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0 are distinguished by their interfaces: Microsoft offers toolbar navigation while Netscape dishes up menu lists. Both display HTML frames, tables, client-side image maps and columns. Their built-in audio and video players are equally adept, and both can run Java and JavaScript applets. You'll be able to see everything on the Web with these two browsers, so interface is likely to determine which one you choose.

The 4.0 versions, however, highlight the distinctions between the two browsers. Each company will try to broaden its product's appeal, but by moving in opposite directions. Netscape hopes to entice the experienced and corporate user, while Microsoft hopes better operating system integration and ease of use will turn IE into a mass-market browsing solution that will lure even novice or casual users.

Netscape radically changes the look and feel of its browser with version 4.0, adopting Microsoft-like features such as tool tips, movable toolbars and a Bookmarks button on the toolbar. Netscape also hopes to find a suite spot by unbundling Navigator into a set of discrete-yet related-applications for browsing, reading mail and newsgroups, and creating messages. The new suite, called Communicator, has better customization capabilities and ease-of-use touches such as one-button image-loading control and a single-step method to mark and organize bookmarks. Among its new components are Conference, which enables text, audio and video exchanges with other Internet users, and Constellation, an active desktop that will let you receive push content.

Microsoft tweaks Internet Explorer's interface a bit with some new ease-of-use features. In addition, Microsoft has been hard at work finding a new home for IE by integrating its browsing capabilities with the Windows 95 shell. The result is a dramatic makeover of the Win95 Desktop, with a new look for the My Computer and Windows Explorer utilities, Favorites lists on the file-utility menu bars and the Start menu, and Active Desktop features. Not to be outdone by Netscape's Conference, Microsoft offers its own collaborative work component, NetMeeting. A Personal Web Server will also be bundled with IE. With its integrated desktop, IE 4.0 users don't have to know the source of their information; they just have to know where to click to get at it.

On one front, at least, Netscape and Microsoft are united. Both support the Dynamic HTML specification (see sidebar "The Next HTML") by building into their products the ability to display interactive pages with advanced features such as custom buttons and read-only fields.

If shipping versions of IE 4.0 and Communicator are not yet available as you read this, you can download the betas and road test them yourself. Get Netscape Communicator at
and IE4.0 at

Well Connected: Perfect Plug-Ins