It's something you thought you'd never see once AOL went back to using IE on its trial CDs. However, the development team continued working on v8 of Netscape while other Gecko-related browsers such as Firefox stole the limelight and press coverage and some thought it was all over at v7.2.

Netscape, still owned by AOL, has taken the practical approach, realising a large proportion of the web still codes for IE and leaves the rest of the browsers to display their sites however they like, if at all. Netscape 8, with the Gecko heart of Firefox 1.0, lets you change the rendering method for those websites primarily designed for IE. Mindful of browser bells and whistles cutting down the viewable area (even at 1024 x 768 and above), toolbars are now condensed into buttons rather than the snap bars of v7. Ten more of your own type can be added and similarly condensed, allowing, for example, your own instant set of bookmarks away from the default group.

If the site in view requires ActiveX you'll have to activate the plugin yourself. Some will view it as sacrilege that a non-MS browser carries this plugin at all. However, IE still packs a punch with 89-90% of the market sewn up. Once you're using N8, Netscape want you to carry on browsing without going back to IE, so including the plugin is the best of both worlds.

Being a beta, you have to expect the odd crash, but once it reaches stability, you have a fourth browser choice to make. That is, if you haven't moved on to, and are staying with, either Opera or Firefox.

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