Netscape 6 is my “browser of choice” (not!)

Slow, ugly, and bloated. Those three words sum up Netscape 6 pretty well. When I heard that Netscape 6 PR 1 was released, I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. Why? Netscape hasn’t released a new version of their browser in well over 6 or 7 months. Maybe you didn’t even know there was a Netscape 6 at all.

There was no special preview, hardly any press coverage, and not much in the way of announcements from Netscape. We’ve tested Mozilla, but that couldn’t possibly be the interface that they were going with. And nevermind that we haven’t ever seen a Netscape 5. It stands to reason that Microsoft would have more power in terms of marketing. But, it makes me wonder. Does Netscape actually have any hope for it’s latest browser? Surely they could come up with something better than that in their lengthy work schedule. Right? Right? Unfortunately, I was unpleasantly surprised when the download finished and I loaded it up.

As others have reported, it appeared frozen as it hung at the startup screen for 2 minutes. After the browser window loaded, things continued to crawl. I have not felt a slower browser since I last used IE 4.5 on my 603/100. I’m on a G3/400 now and I pretty much expect web pages to load, formatted properly, within seconds. Yet, Netscape seems to crawl. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a preview release and the code is likely to be optimized, so there still may be speed increases yet.

You’ve probably heard that Netscape 6 is just milestone 11 of Mozilla. These questions have been raised with commentaries on Mozilla but… What the heck were they thinking with those pokey Windows buttons? It feels as if my Mac has been zapped with Virtual PC when I’m using the web. When the user clicks on a button the program reacts with a lagged response time of over a second before the next dialog even begins to load. Further, the toolbars are not easily customizable. In Internet Explorer 5, it is a simple drag and drop method to change your toolbar to your delight. When using Netscape, it’s more like pulling teeth. This is why I want to see if Preview 2 will make any difference with the addition of skins.

Finally, the software is bloated. It takes an astounding 12mb of RAM minimum! With those kinds of requirements, it’s surprising they don’t have a small OpenGL game that you can play along side the browser. Web browsers simply should not need 12mb of RAM as a minimum. There are still many users out there who only have 32mb of physical RAM in the first place. Get with it Netscape! Bloatware is bad! Where the bloated software gets even worse is instant messaging integration. They have a client similar to AOL IM built into the web browser. Not only is it slow and ugly like the rest of the program, but many of the features don’t even work. Like deleting buddies from the buddy list. I’d much rather use, as I’m sure any user would, a clean cut version of a standalone AOL IM then use the integrated version.

That’s probably my most important point. I didn’t realize it when I began writing, but now that I’ve thrown my thoughts down, perhaps it’s reasonable to relate “quality over quantity” in this situation. Remember stand-alone Navigator? It was my “browser of choice” since 1995. Then came Communicator. It hogged twice the RAM and attempted to infuse an e-mail, web page editor, conferencing, a calendar, and news editor into one gigantic package. Right about this time it lost a bunch of market share and Steve deemed IE his latest browser of choice. Microsoft did the right thing by having Outlook separate from Explorer.

I’m not giving up on Netscape though. Some thing that it might be the final nail in their coffin as far as developing a consumer client-side browser. This was their chance to stage a comeback against Internet Explorer. Perhaps iCab will rise up and be the new Netscape. It has everything going for it except a pretty interface and a large corporation behind it.

Yes, yes, I realize I seem a little pessimistic at this point. At least Netscape released it for Windows, Linux, and the Mac at the same time. And if you go to other PC or Linux sites you’ll see that I’m not the only one dissin’ it.