Netscape has delivered on the second step towards opening up its next generation Communicator browser--nicknamed "Mozilla"--with the first beta release of its "Raptor" rendering engine to developers. The Raptor "technology preview", which is available now for download from the Mozilla Web site, is designed to offer Navigator-based browsers fast, HTML 4.0-based layout, high speed rendering, and full HTML 3.x cascading style sheet (CSS) support, along with the ability to embed the engine within other programs. For this first release, not all of these capabilities are working yet, however.

Netscape is planning on providing a "viewer" release of Raptor in June but wanted to get the code out as quickly as possible for people working with the Mozilla source code. In July, Netscape will release a "browser" version of the engine, which will begin to look more like the final release of Communicator 5.0. In September, an "integration" release will approach the final version of the code.

"We're hoping to find a set of net developers who share the same passion for a great HTML layout system that we have," says a blurb on the Mozilla Website. Netscape is hoping that the Mozilla developer community will speed the development of Raptor. Microsoft, in contrast, has had an embeddable Internet Explorer component (which includes all the layout capabilities of its browser) for almost two years