Netscape Communications announced Thursday that it would allow users to download free copies of its Navigator Web browser and Communicator Internet suite. Additionally, developers will be able to license the source code to the next version of Communicator for free. This will allow third parties to integrate Communicator into their own products more easily, and at no cost.

"The time is right for us to take the bold action of making our client free--and going even further by committing to post the source code for free for Communicator 5.0," said CEO Jim Barksdale.

Netscape's Web browser has lost significant marketshare since Microsoft released its free Internet Explorer 3.0 browser in mid-1996. While it once commanded about 90% of the market for Web browsers, Navigator is now hovering around 50%, and it provides only 13% of Netscape's revenues.

In addition to giving out free Web clients, Netscape will also try to boost sales of its server products by offering discounts to Communicator users. The next version of Communicator will include free versions of the Netscape SuiteSpot Standard Edition server suite while the Professional Version will be bundled with Communicator Professional 5.0, which the company will sell at retail.

Netscape Communicator 5.0 Beta 1 is scheduled to be available by March 31, 1998 on the Netscape Web site