Netscape has released Netscape 6.1, the newest revision of its Web browser for Mac, Windows and Linux systems. A preview version is also available for Mac OS X.

The browser is available for free download from the company, and is more stable and Web standard compliant than before. Features include Netscape Navigator, Netscape Mail, Netscape Instant Messenger, Netscape Composer and Netscape Address Book.

The user interface has been revamped, with fewer buttons and toolbars. One addition is a QuickLaunch feature, which speeds up the process of launching the browser. It does this by providing the option to have the application load into the Mac's memory when the machine is booted up.

On form Form auto-completion has been improved, and emoticons are now built into the application's messaging client, AOL Instant Messenger. The Mail feature has been improved. It offers a start-up view furnishing quick access to account settings, the inbox, email filters and more. The Mail feature supports multiple accounts and can save the email addresses of everyone who writes to you.

The browser also offers one-click controls developed to locate downloaded files on a hard drive. Other features include a History tab in the Sidebar and a central password manager. The Bookmark management and File Bookmark features have been improved, to make extensive lists easier to manage. Bookmark lists can be searched by date visited and name, and Bookmarks can be saved into specific files.

Netscape's release comes as Microsoft readies its final release of the Windows version of Internet Explorer 6.0. However, experts no longer consider Netscape a threat to Microsoft's slice of the browser market.

"The browser war is all but over," said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for WebSideStory's StatMarket. "Microsoft won."

Browser war 'over' Today, 86 per cent of Web surfers use a version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, according to StatMarket. Only 13.5 per cent use Netscape's browser.

Compatibility issues have plagued Netscape 6 ever since the Netscape browser was rewritten from the ground up in an open-source environment. It took Netscape two years and six months to develop Netscape 6. The browser is based on the Gecko engine, and was developed with input from independent Internet programmers in an open-source project called Mozilla.

"Although no browser is perfect, Opera, Netscape, and Microsoft have all shown their commitment to supporting to W3C recommended standards," Jeffrey Zeldman, group leader at the Web Standards Project. He hopes the support for standards will be an example for Web development tools.

"It's time for developers to use the standards, or at least offer them as options so that we can build sites that are standards-compliant, because the browsers will let us do it," Zeldman says. Standards are supposed to permit a Web site to look the same in multiple browsers.

Netscape 6.1 for Mac OS requires: a G3 or G4 processor rated at 266MHz or above, 64MB RAM and 36MB hard-drive space.