Comparison of Internet Explorer and Netscape Browsers Term Paper

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Internet Explorer and Netscape Browsers

Most people in 2005 have accessed the World Wide Web, and chances are, they used Microsoft Internet Explorer to do it. In 1995, the situation was quite different; far fewer people had accessed the Web, and most of those who had used Netscape Navigator. Microsoft saw Netscape and the Web as a competitive threat to its operating system business, and launched its own browser to compete. The release of version 2 of each browser represented the real beginning of the "browser wars" of the 1990s. Netscape Navigator 2.0 is a more mature product than Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0, however, Internet Explorer 2.0 has several user-interface features that are better designed. Internet Explorer is less focused on directing users to specific websites than Netscape is, and appears cleaner as a result. Netscape's menus offer more options that those in Internet Explorer, but many of those are just permanent bookmarks of Netscape websites. The help systems differ significantly; Internet Explorer has a small number of included HTML help files, while Netscape has a comprehensive online manual. Netscape has a significantly more sophisticated bookmarking system which includes support for folders, and generally resembles what would be found in a modern web browser. Netscape has broader support for web technologies, including frames, Java and Javascript, though both browsers support the basics of HTML, as well as more advanced features such as images and tables. Both browsers are fairly unstable, and remain so for a number of release cycles after version 2.0 due to the intense competition between the two.

When Microsoft licensed Spyglass Mosaic, Netscape had a head start. Not only was the browser more mature, but many users equated Netscape's browser software with the Internet in much the same way that users do with Internet Explorer in 2005. Users were familiar with Netscape's feature set, menu layout and absurdly large, blocky buttons. Internet Explorer 2.0 is essentially a re-badged version of Spyglass Mosaic. (Sink, 2003) The user interface is cleaner, more compact and resembles the original graphical browser that both are based on: NCSA Mosaic. Internet Explorer's buttons are small, but well organized and easy to click. By default, only an icon is shown, and text appears when the mouse pointer hovers over a button. Netscape's icons are larger, but less colorful and somewhat less clear in their meaning. Text labels are shown by default as well as icons. The clickable button areas are very large, and groups are separated by large divisions. Netscape appears as if it was designed for users who have difficulty using a mouse due to lack of coordination. Netscape has a second row of buttons below the address field containing links to Netscape's websites, but appearing to be standard user-interface buttons. This design element serves as a window in to the underlying business models of the two companies. Both browsers were provided as free downloads, and both companies expect to make money through sales and advertising, using their browsers to drive customers to their websites, but this is a far more significant source of income for Netscape; Microsoft's primary business was not web browsers.

Netscape has nine menus, to Explorer's six. While Netscape has more features, that alone does not account for the number of menus. Netscape tries to add every feature users could possibly want, and requires places to put those features. Menus that reach below the bottom of the screen tend to annoy users, and most screens were fairly low resolution when Netscape Navigator 2.0 was released. Netscape also uses the menu bar to promote its websites, with a "Directory" menu containing sites selected by Netscape and not editable by the user. Most of the menus that are common to both browsers are essentially the same, with the only differences being the order and names of some of the items. One significant difference is that recent pages are listed in the File menu in Explorer and the Go menu in Netscape. This decision shows Microsoft's lack of experience with the Web; it works like the list of recent files in Microsoft Word.

Both browsers have a help system accessible from within the browser via the Help menu. Netscape's help system works by sending the user to Netscape's website. The manual is comprehensive, and includes such things as a fictional dialog between a Netscape developer and his family members introducing them to Netscape and…

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