After releasing a stunningly weak series of Web browsers that alienated customers and cemented Microsoft's lead in the browser wars, Netscape has quietly issued an early peek at its next browser suite, Netscape 7.0, which offers a surprisingly wide range of new functionality. Netscape 7.0 Preview Release 1 (PR1) builds on the Mozilla 1.0 platform and adds several proprietary Netscape technologies, including email spell checking, access to Internet radio, an interesting Click-to-Search feature that first appeared in Opera's browser, and better corporate features, such as Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) support. Netscape parent AOL Time Warner will reportedly replace Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) with this new technology for its online next-generation AOL client software. Netscape has also extensively redesigned its Netscape.com Web site to include richer graphics and a streamlined, MSN-like design.

"Netscape 7.0 enables consumers to get the most from their time online with new features that let them manage the breadth of their activities on the Web," said Laura Yecies, vice president of Netscape's Client Product Division. "Users are doing more of their daily tasks and communications online, and Netscape 7.0 efficiently allows them to manage the activities they most frequently engage in."

The series of disappointing releases in the Netscape 6.x line were based on early builds of Mozilla, the open-source Web browser project. But Netscape 7.0, which is based on modern Mozilla builds, includes its best parts--a tabbed browsing interface, full-screen browsing, and automatic pop-up advertisement removal--and adds integration with AOL and Netscape online services, including ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) chat services, Netscape Web search, and online shopping.

For more information and the free download, visit the Netscape Web site.