Software // Enterprise Applications
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1/7/2004
02:07 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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The Explorer: Torture Testing Netscape 6.0

Fred puts Netscape's latest browser through the wringer.

Full Tests
Next I spent several hours trying to get N6 to finish even one run of BT2K's full test suite, but it was just too buggy. I'm used to beta bugs, but I confess to some frustration with the frequency of N6's crashes: This software is already over two years late, and probably will cross the "three years late" mark before the final version ships. In my humble opinion, at this late date, the software shouldn't be behaving like a first-draft alpha version.

I did get parts of the BT2K full test to run in piecemeal fashion: N6 supports most of the basics just fine, with a few notable exceptions. For example, despite the fact that 94 percent of the world's PCs run Windows, Netscape still has no support of the .BMP graphics format, a Microsoft Windows standard. How is that anything other than petty on Netscape's part?

More seriously, N6 doesn't recognize or display "alt tags" when you hover your cursor over a graphic. I can't imagine why they left this out, even in an early beta.

Like its predecessors, N6 still handles table backgrounds in a weird way, requiring a clumsy workaround if a Web designer wants to combine background colors and images in a table.

Amazingly, I couldn't get any -- and I mean any -- sound or multimedia to work on N6. (N4.7 running on the same test machine has no problem at all.) Likewise, even a tiny basic Java test applet that runs fine on 4.7 (not to mention Opera and IE) simply does not work at all on N6.

But here's what really blew me away: Despite all the verbiage on the Netscape site about how N6 is the most standards-compliant browser on the planet, N6 failed every single BT2K test for CSS, DHTML, XML and related technologies.

The total failure of what was supposed to be one of N6's major strengths gave me pause: I built the BrowserTune tests to current  standards; but had the standards recently changed to such a degree that nothing would work in a truly compliant browser? Was BT2K at fault somehow?

I decided to go right to the horse's mouth and check by using N6 to surf to the W3C site to view some of their sample pages. Crash. N6 couldn't handle it.

Then, still using N6, I surfed to the DataChannel corporate site -- DataChannel was one of the companies earliest and most aggressively involved with XML and XSL; and DataChannel also helped code the BT2K XML/XSL test pages. I wanted to view their pages, natively. Crash. N6 couldn't handle it.

I have no doubt that Netscape intends N6 to be highly compliant, but the gap between the promises and the reality is dauntingly wide, and it's getting pretty late in the game.

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