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Netscape Navigator Vs. Microsoft Internet Explorer - Who Will Win the "Browser Wars?"

Carolyn C. Gargaro

Just a note - this article does not compare the latest releases of Netscape Navigator (v4) and Internet Explorer (v4) since it was written before the newest browser releases. If only I had time to write a paper on the newest version!! I have though, found a very good resource for comparing the newest browser versions at CNet.com Since many people still use verison 3 of the browsers, however, the following analysis should still be helpful!
Submitted December 8, 1996
Last updated October 20, 1997

Table of Contents


With the Internet becoming increasingly popular as a method of information retrieval and advertising, in addition to being used for advanced functions such as database applications and interactive applications, the question arises as to which browser to use to take full advantage of the Internet. For instance, which browser has more features, and which of these features are of greater importance for effective "web browsing"?

This project will evaluate the two most popular and advanced browsers used today - Internet Explorer 3.0 and Netscape Navigator 3.0. Certain features of each browser will be evaluated, with a look at basic browser functions as well some more advanced functions that will have effect on the future of desktop computing. Results of the evaluation will be comprised from outside evaluation results, as well as results from an independent test I will perform on each browser.

The information presented does not look at every feature of Navigator 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0. Some areas may not be explained in detail to some readers' satisfaction. One reason for this is that a detailed explanation of each browser feature would require a book. The primary reason is that the focus is more on the features that have implications for the trends for desktop computing as seen by Netscape and Microsoft. While there are comparisons on "trivial" browser features, not every feature was examined.


The purpose of this project is to describe the differences, attributes, and problems with both Netscape Navigator 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0, to assist users in deciding which browser is more suitable for them. While the 4.0 version of both browsers will be available in 1997, both with new features and strong implications for the future of desktop computing, I will not be comparing upcoming features in the next release. The focus here is on the current release of both browsers, and speculation and the rating of attributes and features not yet released is not the purpose here. The implications for the future of desktop computing can be seen in the current release of these browsers, and these implications will be addressed, though the outcome will not really be known until the release and wide implementation of Netscape 4.0 and Internet Explorer 4.0 take place.

Unless otherwise noted, Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 3.0 will be referred to as IE, and Netscape Navigator version 3.0 will be referred to as Navigator (to avoid confusion with the name of the company, Netscape Corporation). If an earlier version of the browser is being referred to, that will be so noted.


History of the "Web Browser"

It was just over two years ago that graphical user interface web browsers were developed, the first one being NCSA Mosaic. Before the advent of browsers, around 1991, the University of Minnesota developed the Internet Gopher, which enabled information to be provided on the Internet in hierarchical lists. About the same time, Tim Berners-Lee and colleges at the CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics were developing a networked hypertext system called the World Wide Web (WWW) (Nichols, 1996). In contrast to gopher's hierarchical structure, the WWW includes embedded "hot links" to other documents which leads to other documents. This is how the WWW is known today.

In 1993, NCSA announced their plan to release a new client called Mosaic. In fact, many say that Mosaic was the enabling tool for the use of the Web as a networked information distribution mechanism. Up until about 1994 sometime, there were two main Microsoft Windows browsers for the World-Wide Web: Mosaic and Cello. Since these "early browsers", various precedents have been set in the production and distribution that are radically different from any other software product in the software industry (PC Direct, 1996).

One reason for these precedents is due to the fact that browsers were basically free. While individual users were supposed to pay a license fee, numerous organizations qualified for free usage under Mosaic's terms, and the distribution was too hard to monitor. In addition, the production cycle for browsers enabled the free distribution. Since browsers were distributed online, there was no need for packaging, distributing, and reselling (PC Direct, 1996).

With almost no time lag for placing a browser on the market, software developers could easily add new features or bug-patches daily. This continuous upgrade cycle enabled users to download free evaluation copies easily.

The history of Mosaic since then has been "dramatic:" a constant flow of updates; the licensing of the program to a variety of companies, including Microsoft; and the appearance of Netscape (Moody, 1996). It seemed for a while that Navigator would be the dominant browser, as it's features quickly surpasses that of Mosaic. However, Microsoft entered the game this year with version 3.0 of their Internet Explorer - an incredible upgrade from their previous version, which lacked most of Netscape's advanced features.

The Dominant Browsers:
Netscape Navigator 3.0
Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0

Both browsers, while having differences, are very similar, and have to have some identical features. This is because the browser is based on supporting Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The standard for HTML is currently version 3.2, and needs to be supported by all browsers to make the Web open and accessible to all, no matter which browser is used (PC Direct, 1996). Browser companies know that not supporting the standard of HTML would undermine the Internet market, since the simplicity of HTML and the standardization of the WWW are what makes it so attractive to so many people.

While many of the features are very similar in IE and Navigator, certain differences can be seen, some minor and some more major. Many of the differences can be attributed to the way each company sees the future of the Internet and the user's PC. Microsoft will be integrating the next version of IE as a component in the desktop of the PC, while Netscape is aiming for their browser to become a "universal client", where the browser itself will almost replace the desktop (Sun Developer News, 1996). This will be addressed a bit later, in the description of the two browsers' different implementations of Java and ActiveX, as describing this more complex issue before even touching on the more basic features of each browser could be confusing. The future plans for the desktop, though, will be more apparent in release 4.0 of both browsers, and an entire paper could be written on these upcoming plans alone.

Platform Support

Platform support is often confused with operating systems support. An example of a platform would be Windows, Unix, Mac, and OS/2. But there are different variations on each platform, and these variations are operating systems. The Windows platform encompasses Windows '95, Windows 3.1, and Windows NT. Unix has 12 variations. Nowadays, the most well-known platform is Windows, both 3.1 and '95. While Windows '95 would be considered the most popular, many people still use Windows 3.1, especially if they have not upgraded their PC.

At the moment, IE supports four operating systems, - Windows '95, Windows NT, Windows 3.1 and Macintosh. Navigator supports sixteen, including 12 of the more popular Unix operating systems, Windows 3.1, Macintosh, as well as Windows '95 and Windows NT. This is a major advantage for Navigator, since the world, despite how Bill Gates may see it, is not limited to Windows and Mac users.

While it may be argued that Microsoft has promised to support other platforms, nothing concrete has materialized. However, Microsoft back in June of 1996 overstepped the charge of "platform bias" by promising that may Unix operating systems will have "full Explorer 3.0 functionality, including ActiveX" by years end (Ray, July 1996). Well, it's now 1997 and and a Unix version of IE is not yet available. In addition, the specific Unix operating systems that will be supported was not specified. Will Microsoft support all 12 aforementioned variants of UNIX?

Platform support will be addressed again in the discussion of Java and ActiveX, where many issues touched on here will come together. The differences in platform support are also a key issue in the how Microsoft and Netscape see the future of desktop computing.

One should also note that both browsers are lacking full support for IBM's OS/2. Microsoft has no browser whatsoever available for OS/2 and has never stated they would ever support it. Navigator does have version 2.02 available for OS/2, but not version 3.0, as they will supposedly jump right to Navigator 4.0 for OS/2.


Both browsers have a similar type of interface, with a menu and button bar above the browser window. In general, IE's slick new interface is more appealing than Navigator's. IE's raised, frameless menu icons that light up when a mouse is placed over them, customizable address bar and links menu make it look more up-to-date and increase the ease of use. IE also includes a font button right on the menu bar for the user to take advantage of the variable font settings standard in HTML 3.2 (PC Direct, 1996). In addition, the search feature to search the current web document showing, is clearer on IE. While Navigator's button is labeled "search" for searching the document currently showing in the browser, IE goes a step further to label it's option for this (found under "Edit" on the main menu) as "find on this page." (Santalesa, 1996). While this may seem like a negligible difference, it's easy to misunderstand the function or become confused by the "search" button. Many tend to think the button is used to search the Internet, not the current web document. IE clears up this confusion.

However, Navigator's method for presenting information while connecting to a site is a bit better. IE displays the site IP number instead of the name. For instance, Navigator will show http://www.interstat.net while IE will show While not a major difference, numbers are not as "friendly" as the actual URL. In addition, IE doesn't not give an indication of the file sizes while downloading, instead opting for a graph showing what percentage of the file has been received (PC Direct, 1996).


Bookmarks, while not the most important feature in a browser, are certainly a very convenient item. Given the amount of information being placed on the web daily, imagine having to write down every URL you wanted to remember, or trying to find the same URL again! Bookmarks also let the user categorize and sort bookmarks into sections, so their URLS are much easier to find in the bookmark list.

Both browsers support bookmarks, or Favorites, as they are called in IE. Bookmarks in Navigator are easier to manage, and allows the user to insert separators, group bookmarks easily, see details of the last time the bookmark was used, and control the duration of the link (PC Direct, 1996). However, IE also includes a History folder that tracks every page visited for a certain number of days. The number of days is defined by the user, and makes backtracking much easier (Santalesa, 1996). Navigator provides a history, but only for the current session.

However, users may want to consider the differences in the size of Navigator's and IE's bookmark files. That's right - size. The same bookmark file in Navigator will take up A LOT more disk space in IE. For example, a 458-KB bookmark file in Navigator takes up in IE- please sit down - anywhere between 18MB and 38MB, depending on the computer system (Santalesa, 1996). IE's Favorites take up significantly more space than Navigator's bookmarks, because each Favorite (bookmark) in IE becomes a Windows shortcut that, depending on the users disk-block size, actually uses up 16KB to 32 KB per entry. Those low on disk space and using IE should keep their Favorites folder to a minimum!

Mail and News

Both Navigator and IE support sending and receiving HTML, so e-mail can be sent with images, sound, and even Java effects. (Schwartz, 1996). Netscape has gone a step further though and made deals with several Internet content providers to deliver customized e-mail to users' in-boxes regularly with a feature called Inbox Direct (PC Direct, 1996). Navigator also includes the feature to be able to display only unread inbox messages.

IE, however, as items such as Inbox Assistant, which performs mail filtering. Users can set up a folder and specify which messages should automatically be filtered into that particular folder (Santalesa, 1996). IE's Internet news reader is also more intuitive for new users, while Navigator's integrated Usenet client is easier when skimming multiple groups (Santalesa, 1996).

HTML Support

While Navigator 3.0 introduces several new, non-standard table-formatting extensions to HTML 3.2, such as multicolumn layout, spacing and frame-border enhancements, IE 3.0 includes HTML 3.2 specifications that Navigator does not, including level 1 Cascading Style Sheets and floating frames. IE 3.0 is the first browser to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the HTML style sheet standard set by the W3C. Style sheets give users the same flexibility of design and layout that desktop publishing programs do, by enabling them to attach styles (such as fonts, colors, and spacing) to HTML pages. By applying separate style tags to HTML, web page designers ensure that all browsers (that support CSS) can view the basic text and structure of the Web page while more sophisticated designs can be presented. This is a very useful feature lacking in Navigator.

Download Time

Downloading the Browsers Themselves!

A full version of Navigator is about 5.5 MB while a full version of IE is about 8 MB, so obviously the download time is shorter for Navigator - a big plus for modem users. The extra download time for IE is due to its ActiveX controls. However, adding ActiveX support to Netscape requires a plug-in, which is an additional 3.5 MB (Santalesa, 1996).

Downloading Web Pages and Documents

Both companies stress that their browser downloads files faster. It is sometimes difficult to determine the browser's speed due to the differences in ISP connections, local disk speeds, and host web servers. While both products give substantial speed increases over older browsers, Navigator has a slight edge in downloading most pages, though IE executes Java applets faster.

KeyLabs Inc., an independent network testing organization, released the results of its performance comparison of Navigator and IE in October. Testing was designed to measure performance while transferring actual Internet HTML files. File sets were grouped according to size. Download time was measured on a range of 10-100 Pentium class client computers. For small and medium files, Netscape turned in a more than 200 percent better performance. Microsoft's Internet Explorer narrowed the gap when downloading larger files, although Netscape's Navigator was still about 30 percent faster. The full details of this test are available at http://www.keylabs.com./shootout.htm (no longer available)

In my personal testing of various sites, Navigator always connected and downloaded the page seconds, or even minutes faster than IE. This was done with an empty cache on both browsers, at approximately 11pm EST, using a T-1 connection at my office. While seconds may not seem like a significant difference, it does add up. However, there are many other variables to consider, such as the traffic on the particular site, time of day, etc.

Other tests have claimed that IE "occasionally gave up on pages, which Navigator, running alongside it, retrieved without a hitch" (Green, 1996). In another independent test, IE had a problem with downloading Intel's home page due to a VB Script that Navigator ignored, but produced "near paralysis" for IE (Santalesa, 1996). The problem appears to be fixed, as I visited the site on Dec 5, 1996, and it showed no problems for IE.

One site that did show a problem was the Macromedia Web site. I visited the site on December 5, 1996 and Navigator downloaded the site in seconds, while IE still had not downloaded the site after almost five minutes. A visit a day later though, showed no problem for IE.

However, interestingly enough, IE executes Java applets faster than Navigator. (Java will be touched on shortly). This is something I had noticed independently, and other tests have proven this. Both browsers contain JIT (Just-in-time) Java compilers to significantly speed Java's executions (Santalesa 1996). The Pendragon Software Corp's CaffeineMark Industry standard testing on Java show IE 's execution of Java applets anywhere from 13 percent to 50 percent faster than Navigator 3.0 on almost every test. The complete test result are available at

Other sites that posed a problem for IE included sites using JavaScript. Even though IE claims to support JavaScript, this isn't entirely true. JavaScript is not the same as Java - JavaScript is geared for scripting strictly within a browser environment, while Java applets are separate programs which run in browsers. This confuses many - while IE supports Java (IE 3.0 at first had some problems with Java execution due to some missing class files - IE 3.01 has corrected that. More information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/java/issue.htm) fully, and even executes applets faster, IE's JavaScript support is severely lacking.

IE's lack of JavaScript support will not always be obvious to the general user, as many times the JavaScript includes code to ignore a browser that does not support most JavaScript functions, usually any browser other than Navigator 3.0. In fact, I discovered this problem not by testing sites, but by my own inclusion of JavaScript in some web pages. I always test web pages with both IE and Navigator, to ensure people using either browser can view the site. IE would produce an error when encountering the JavaScript. IE supports only very basic JavaScript, and causes an error in most of the very useful and widely used JavaScripts. Implementing a browser detection JavaScript is very simple, and many helpful JavaScripts such as this can be found at The JavaScript tip of the week.

However, IE does support a different scripting language - VBScript, which is an offshoot of Microsoft's Visual Basic. This makes scripting in a browser much easier for those who already know Visual Basic. VBScripts can also call ActiveX controls, which are considered a rival for Java applets (Thompson, 1996). Microsoft has also made it possible to control Java applets through ActiveX.

Navigator also now includes LiveConnect, that allows the "live" objects of Java applets, JavaScripts, and plug-ins to interact with one another. In addition, Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java, has developed JavaBeans. JavaBeans allows Java components to be inserted in any other component or architecture, including ActiveX, OpenDoc, LiveConnect, and any Java applet or Application (Sun Developer News, 1996).

Dynamic Updating

If you've ever seen a "live camera" on the Web, where a scene is continually refreshed every few seconds, somewhat like a video, then you've seen an example of dynamic updating. Dynamic updating documents contain information that is updated on a periodic or frequent basis, and does not need any special plug-in or browser add-on to work. This allows web developers to provide almost real-time video feed right on a web site. The user does not have to refresh the page to see the updates - it's done automatically every two or three seconds. An example of this feature can be seen at InterStat, Inc's web site, where an "office cam" let's people view the activities in InterStat's office.

Netscape 1.1 and above supports a couple different mechanisms for these dynamic documents. These mechanisms are called "server push" and "client pull", and are based on existing standards (including the standard MIME multipart mechanism and the HTML 3.0 META tag).

IE, however, does not support this basic and useful server-push function. While IE does have some support for refreshing videos, the user must reload his/her page every time the he/she wants to see an update. The above example will not work in IE.

Multimedia Plug-ins

Plug-ins are the way browsers handle multimedia Web content, such as video, music and VRML.

Navigator and IE both support plug-ins, though the approaches for acquiring the plug-ins are a bit different. Navigator uses something called Automatic Update, which gives users access to new plug-ins whenever they need them. With Automatic Update, when one encounters a new data type, Navigator checks to see if there is a plug-in that can display it. If the plug-in is already available on the system, Navigator automatically displays the data. If one doesn't have

an appropriate plug-in, Navigator displays a dialog box asking if users if they would like to locate one. The dialog box can be dismissed and users can continue reading the page, or they can have Navigator display a list of plug-ins and the new data type encountered. That list links directly to the download page for each plug-in. After downloading, the data type that needed the plug-in will work.

IE also checks for needed plug-ins when encountering a new data types. However, IE has streamlined the process a bit more by letting built ActiveX controls automatically recognize and display the data type. If a plug-in is necessary, IE will automatically find the appropriate plug-in and ask users if they want to download and install the plug-in (PC Direct, 1996). Again, the users can choose not to accept the plug-in, but if they do, IE will download and install the plug-in. This eliminates users first being sent to the plug-in site, then downloading and installing the plug-in themselves. IE will automatically choose the plug-in and install it in one process, a big advantage for some users. For an advanced user who may more control and choice in the plug-in process, it may seem somewhat limited.

Confused enough by the talk of JavaScript, Java, VBScript, and ActiveX? Let's look into Java and ActiveX a bit more.

Java vs. ActiveX

This background on the two companys' different approaches to building computer infrastructures is important in understanding the differences between Java and ActiveX. An entire paper could be written just on Java and ActiveX, thus the information here regarding these two technologies is just a very brief overview. For a full understanding of Java or ActiveX, one should really acquire a more detailed document or book on the subject. This overview will however, present the basic differences between Java and ActiveX, and will tie in the reasons behind some of the differences of Navigator and IE. The differences between Microsoft's ActiveX and Sun Microsystem's Java (Netscape has adopted Java for Navigator, though Netscape did not create Java), will also show the different plans Microsoft and Netscape have for desktop computing. (Yes - this will finally be explained!)

Sun Microsystems, the developers of Java, built its business on network-centric computing, where a system's usability is determined more by the network resources it can access than by the particular operating system or the set of applications residing on it (Sun Developer News, 1996). As David Schickel, technical manager for Netscape Northern Europe states, "with Navigator, (implementing Java) the notion of a desktop simply goes away." (PC Direct, 1996). The ultimate goal of Sun's network-centric model, which has been embraced by Netscape, is to provide the capabilities and capacities of the entire network to any computing device which can connect to it (Sun Developer News, 1996).

Java is a programming language that is designed specifically for the Internet, and is an object-oriented programming tool. Java allows any program written in Java to run on any computer or digital device, from PCs to machine tools, so millions of otherwise incompatible computers can all use the same Java software. One prompt to develop Java is the Open Systems movement, which demands that different products work together, or interoperate.

The vision for Java lies within its compact applets, many taking up less than 100,000 bytes, that will do a single job well. If a user wants another feature - such as a spell check, or a graphic chart - the user can simply click and fetch another applet, which downloads in a few seconds. Java offers the user the prospect of a virtually infinite supply of just-in-time software-passing the burden of storing it to the network (Economist, 1995).

Sun and Netscape believe the focus of the Internet and corporate intranets is on new, network-centric applications, rather than the operating system of PC itself.

ActiveX is a direct descendent of Microsoft's OCX control that, in turn, is based on its Common Object Model (COM). ActiveX is used to develop content for web pages, and the ActiveX components, or scaled down OLE objects as most programmers will recognize them, can run in web pages, as well as part of any Windows based tools, such as C/C++, Basic, and Pascal. There are a few thousand components now available, ranging from simple push-button designs to complex multimedia objects (PC Direct, 1996). In a nutshell, ActiveX is simply existing desktop Microsoft tools and technologies bundled together and made to work over the Internet (Thompson, 1996). In fact, ActiveX controls don't need a browser, since they can be any sort of OLE control, and some controls are being built to work with other Windows applications such as word processors and spreadsheets. The controls are distributed over the Internet, installed via the browser, and are available to any program (Thompson, 1996). Some ActiveX examples are available at http://www.microsoft.com/activex/default.htm

Microsoft's view is desktop-centric, focusing on the desktop, with operating systems and applications. ActiveX is Microsoft's method for wrapping the Internet into everything within Windows, and is excellent for integrating Windows-only, desktop-only applications (Santalesa, 1996).

ActiveX and Java - Platform Support

A significant difference between ActiveX and Java lies in platform dependence. The difference in platform support parallels that of Navigator and IE. ActiveX is platform dependent, while Java is platform independent and will run on multiple platforms, including Macintosh, 12 of the more well-known versions of Unix, Windows '95 and NT, and adheres to accepted industry standards. Java applications can run on multiple platforms without the need to be recompiled. This architecturally neutral characteristic of Java and Java's run-time environment are the main reasons why a Java program is portable. Simply put, this means one source, multiple platforms.

ActiveX controls have to be recompiled to run on any platform other than Windows, as ActiveX controls include Windows/Intel specific codes. So, existing ActiveX controls will have to be recompiled, which is a significant undertaking if Internet Explorer ever becomes available for other platforms. Therefore, multiple copies of each ActiveX control must be kept for each browser platform. (Thompson, 1996). ActiveX is absolutely not platform independent, and is not expected to be any time soon. ActiveX is restricted to people using Microsoft Windows using Internet explorer, or Navigator on Microsoft Windows with the ActiveX plug-in. Navigator 3.0 is supposed to run OLE/ActiveX controls today via Navigator's plug-in architecture and the nCompass plug-in.

This is not completely accurate. While the Navigator plug-in will run many ActiveX controls, I found that it did not work for some ActiveX features on the Microsoft Web Site. One in particular was an example of IE's streaming audio and video capabilities at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/most/howto/media.htm. Streaming allows the viewer to hear or see a multimedia file before it finishes downloading. Navigator also has plug-ins to support such streaming features, yet if one attempts to view these particular multimedia streaming examples, it looks as if Navigator does not work, and thus does not support multimedia streaming well.

Upon exploring the code for the files, it was found that the multimedia files are called by a VBScript, which calls an ActiveX control. This actually showed that Navigator does not completely support ActiveX. However, Navigator does supports streaming, as does IE. Even running Windows '95 with the ActiveX plug-in installed, the files could not be played or downloaded. This is not the norm, as integrating a VBScript to play sound or run video over the Web is not necessary.


Security is integrated, or "built-in" in Java. Java applications are secure against both intentional and accidental system integrity attacks, with a combination of code verification and data flow analysis launched with all Java applications. (Coffee, 1996). All applets run in a protected space that prohibits access to local memory. Encryption and certification can also be used in conjunction with the applets (Sun Developer News, 1996).

ActiveX's security features were added on, and offers cryptology certificates as the only security measure. This method essentially encrypts the program and passes it through a certification site. Unfortunately, this is a significantly less comprehensive and secure method than any of those built into Java. It merely verifies that the ActiveX component has been created by the person who purchased the verification certificate, but it does not guarantee the quality of the component (Green, 1996). Because of its basis on desktop technology, ActiveX allows access to areas inherently vulnerable to viruses.

Remember the slow connecting and web page download time at the Intel site, described earlier? Part of that was due to the downloading of the security certificate and 2 MB ActiveX HTML layout Control if the IE browser needs them. If a PC lacks enough free disk space to install the layout control, it will redownload with every access (Santalesa, 1996).

Microsoft's desktop-centric view, and Netscape's network-centric view are highly different.

Microsoft plans to integrate the browser with the operating system. IE 4.0 will mark the full crossover from the browser as an application to the browser as a navigational tool for the operating system. IE 4.0 will provide a common interface to the hard drive, the Lan, and the Internet. (PC Direct, 1996). Users will be able to manipulate applications such as Word and Excel within the IE 4.0 shell, and take advantage of ShellViews - framed areas within applications that can host active documents, regardless of their source. This means that users can view HTML content, wherever it's stored, as an inherent part of the application (PC Direct, 1996).

Netscape's plans for Netscape Navigator and the desktop computer are much different. Netscape sees the browser as a mini-desktop within itself, which will be seen more in Navigator 4.0, as it adds more and more functionality to the browser, with the entire Navigator interface written in Java in the next six to eight months (Sun Developer News, 1996). Netscape hopes to see the browser used to navigate between local and Internet files seamlessly, while online and disconnected. To see examples of applications running in a Web browser, Cooper-Peters Inc. has some excellent examples at http://www.cooper-peters.com/. Here one can see wordprocessors and other applications running on a web browser - without the application residing on the local computer.

ActiveX controls run in container applications that are too fat to run on anything but the desktop, (Thompson, 1996). If Sun and Netscape's vision of "The Network is the Computer" becomes reality, ActiveX will have problems, as it will have no heavy operating system to rely on.

Which view will win? Again, that won't be known until version 4.0 of Navigator and Internet Explorer are available. Then the real browser wars will begin.

MY Conclusions!

So how does one wade through all this information? So who wins the "Browser Wars?" The consumer. Compare the browsers of today with the Mosaic of last year, or even the first versions of Navigator and Internet Explorer! In addition, the competition between Microsoft and Netscape gives each company the push to become better and faster. One can see though, that both browsers contain excellent features for effective and exciting Web browsing. One can also see that both Microsoft and Netscape see the future of computing quite different, with Microsoft's desktop-centric view and Netscape's alliance with Sun Microsystems with their network-centric view.

Regarding Netscape, why they did not include a handy feature such as style sheets is not known. It also seems odd that Microsoft has surpassed them in the speed of Java applet execution. Also, support for ActiveX is not complete, though Netscape counters that ActiveX solutions only work on TWO of Netscape's 16 supported operating systems, and the lack of protection in ActiveX is something Netscape can do without. I tend to agree. ActiveX is extremely insecure, and is useless for the many people who prefer to use the fourteen platforms that Microsoft doesn't bother to support

The lack of platform support in Internet Explorer, while many articles brush aside the issue, is a very important lacking feature on Microsoft's part. While, yes, most PC users may use Windows '95 , the ignoring of Unix and other platforms is, in my opinion, very short-sighted. And what about OS/2? I.E didn't even support Windows 3.1 until very recently. Netscape supported Windows 3.1, a Microsoft operating system, before Microsoft did! And while Microsoft claims they can provide the ActiveX functionality to all platforms, this seems very unlikely. ActiveX is really a part of the Windows platform - to say it will be just as effective on Unix and Macintosh may not be entirely true. In addition, as new computing architectures become available, every ActiveX control will have to be ported to the new platform. In contrast, Java is completely platform-independent, and Java components will run without recompilation on existing and future platforms that support Java. ActiveX is useful for Windows platforms, but is not the "next Java" as some ActiveX supporters claim. In addition ActiveX's complete lack of security features makes the user vulnerable to every hacker on the Internet.

When deciding on which browser is "better" a lot depends on personal opinion. For the novice user running Windows '95, Internet Explorer, with the easier plug-in function and more user-friendly interface would perhaps be a better choice. However, in my personal opinion, while Navigator may not be as "pretty" as IE, and does not include the Cascading Style Sheet feature, it's cross-platform support, downloading speed, JavaScript support, server-push dynamic document support, automatic update plug-in feature (I like choosing my own plug-ins), and most importantly, it's much higher level of security features makes it the best choice. Yet, for the best web browsing experience, I urge people to download BOTH browsers. Whether Web pages will one day work on all browsers is unknown, but for now, some pages will not work on either IE or Navigator, thus, downloading both cannot hurt. Actually using the browsers is also the best way to really decide which browser is best for YOU.

So, will 1997 prove to be the year the Windows becomes the way of computing, with a browser tightly integrated into the desktop? Or will the network-centric, open system and platform independent world of Sun and Netscape prevail? We may know when Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape 4.0 arrive. It's certainly something to watch.

Appendix A

Busler, J. (1996, October 4). Battle of the Browsers. The Courier Post, pp. C4.

Cataldo, B. (1996, July). Netscape Delivers New Navigator. Computer Life, 3(7), 23.

Coffee, P. (1996, October 14) [On-Line]. "Framework is not the ONE and only Netscape's Open Network Environment faces tough foe in Microsoft's ActiveX". PCWeek Online
Available: http://www.pcweek.com/sr/1014/14fra.html

Flight of the Navigators (1996, December). PC Direct, 446-470.

Gillin, P. (1996, August 26). Exterminator. ComputerWorld, 30(35), 36.

Green, T. Surfer's Paradise (1996, November). Internet World, 70-71.

Java Vs. ActiveX - A Comparison (1996, Fall) Sun Developer News, (1)(1) 7-11.

KeyLabs Inc. (1996, October). [On-Line] Live Internet Performance Shoot-out.
Available: http://www.keylabs.com./shootout.htm

Krantz, M. (1996, September 2). The First Web War. Time, 148(11), 50.

Moody, G. (1996, July). [On-Line]. "Browsers".
Available: http://www.computerweekly.co.uk/gwspeak/browsers.html 1996

Nicholas, H. (1996). [On-Line]. "Traveling the Internet with Mosaic!"
Available: http://www.ncsu.edu/cc/talks/mosaic/mosaic_start.html

Phelps, A. (1996, October). Browsing For A Web Browser. PC Novice, 7(10), 26-31.

Santalesa, R. (1996, November). Browser Power. NetGuide, (3)11, 65-77.

The Browser Battle Rages On (1996, August). PCComputing, (9)8, 66-67.

Thompson, B. (1996, November). Web in Action - The X Factor. Internet, (24)(11), p. 112.

Will Your Next Computer Be a Tin Can and a Wire? (1995, October 14). The Economist, p. 75.

Appendix B

Anonymous, (1996, July 8). Microsoft vs. Netscape. Fortune, 134(1), 70.

Ray, G. (1996, August 19). Explorer Gains Ground. ComputerWorld, 30(34), 60.

Schlender, B. (1996, September 30). Software Hardball. Fortune, 134(6), 40-49.

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