Just when you thought the world of Web browsers wasn’t complicated enough, Netscape is getting ready to enter the browser wars again by releasing a public beta of Netscape 8.0.

This latest reincarnation of the Netscape browser is based on the Firefox codebase and offers a view using the Internet Explorer rendering engine. Does this make the browser any better than previous versions? And with such strong adoption of Firefox as the de facto “other” Web browser, can a new Netscape browser even make a dent? From the looks of things, no way.

The design of the Netscape browser shell is horrific, essentially undoing all of the logical user interface decisions regarding browsers in the past five years. Unlike Firefox’s simplified view, Netscape’s view is full of widgets here and there. There’s one for your weather, there’s one for your e-mail, there’s one for news headlines…everywhere a widget! The search box is to the left of the location box, which is pretty confusing for users of Firefox or Safari. There’s a whole bunch of buttons that you’ll probably never use and the main menu…well that’s in the upper right corner instead of over on the left where the rest of civilization puts it. The tabs are filled with too many icons, the favicon alone is fine, but then there’s also an indicator as to whether the site is trusted, an X to close the tab, and a little arrow you can click to get a dropdown menu.

Overall, the new Netscape browser is the antiFirefox. Where Firefox went simple, Netscape went complicated. There’s too much UI getting in the way of Web surfing.

Disclaimer: Any viewpoints and opinions expressed in this article are those of Nicholas C. Zakas and do not, in any way, reflect those of my employer, my colleagues, Wrox Publishing, O'Reilly Publishing, or anyone else. I speak only for myself, not for them.

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