How Netscape Is Begging Me To Convert
I am a diehard loyalist when it comes to software. No doubt some might
consider me a bit fanatical in defending my choices in
certain operating systems, browsers and other utilities. As a result
of this stubborness, it is difficult to get me to change from one
piece of software to another. As long as my current selection meets
my basic needs and performs the functions I require, I see no reason
to change. For example, I expect my browser to display web pages and
not much else. I finally gave in and upgraded from version 3.03
to version 4.61 in order to see a few more of the graphical sites using
HTML that just didn't reender correctly on the older browser. It took
a lot of convincing and moaning before I finally upgraded. Truth be told,
I upgraded to see sites like this one.
In cases of browsers, changing becomes a bigger issue because of the
choices I have. Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE),
and Opera. As a long standing opposer to Microsoft and their typical
shoddy software, jumping to the major competitor is not my first choice.
Several small details of Opera make a long term Netscape user not quite
happy with it. Despite all of this, I am clicks away from dropping all
Netscape products from my arsenal of tools. If a user like myself goes
through all that change, it speaks volumes on the problems their products
are plagued with. What kind of problems would make me change browsers?
Perhaps the most annoying bug that I found in 3.03, 3.04, and 4.61
is the unclosable crash dialog box. To date, I still can't figure out
exactly what causes the crash, but more often than not the browser
will exhale its last breath and leave me the standard dialog box telling
me it can no longer display for me. I click 'ok' since the 'details'
box is worthless, and I'm immediately challenged with another
box, giving the same options. Click 'ok' again and again, the little
box just doesn't go away. To date, I have found one way to get rid of the
troublesome box. Reboot.
This little bug has prompted me to have near fits of violent outbursts
as I can't close the box. Worse, I can't use CTRL-ALT-DELETE to get
rid of it. I can't hide the box behind other windows until the next
'convenient' reboot. During one of these incidents, it prompted me to
send fun mail to Netscape knowing full well I would not receive a reply.
The mail went on to berate them for not providing a browser that could
crash correctly. It seems to me that any programmer worth minimum
wage could make a program terminate properly.
With the advent of Netscape Navigator 4.x came the auto-completing
URL. Forget a URL you previously went to? The browser will dutifully
autocomplete it based on your browsing history. Unfortunate for users,
this feature is spotty at best. For those of us who go to the same
site with different paths and files, this feature is a headache at best.
If I download a file from http://www.demonic.com/files/jade.zip, each
subsequent visit to "http://www.demo" will autocomplete to the previous
URL. The failure in logic is that a single user would download the exact
same filename repeatedly. Rather than autocomplete with the filename,
why doesn't it stop short at http://www.demonic.com/files/ and leave me
the choice of what to download? In the case of static web pages that
are visited often, Netscape has the nasty habit of pulling up the first
one you visited rather than the last. If I visit http://www.demonic.com/feb.html once,
the browser will not consider that the last eighty visits to
http://www.demonic.com/march.html might be the better URL to auto-complete.
This action leads to more 404s than if the browser completed based on
a reverse order of browsing history.
Perhaps a better indication of the infant nature of auto-complete is the
simple typos. Input "ttp://www.demonic.com" and the browser will come back
with a polite error message. It is odd that you can leave off "http://"
and it will find it. Why can't a couple more sanity checks be put in
place to catch a little typo? "http://www,demonic.com" will also yield
a DNS error because Netscape can't figure out that the comma doesn't
belong. It is just this kind of un-intuitive behaviour that frustrates
me and reminds me of how far browsers are from becoming convenient and
Another evil that plagues the end user is unskilled web designers who
do not test their pages adequately. Site after site is interrupted with
I can't help but think that the web page author only tested in one specific
browser and has no clue that other browsers choke and drool on their
code. My problem is that Netscape will often output these ugly dialog
boxes that come up with huge horizontal scroll bars. To get rid of the
box and acknowledge the web authors sloppiness, I must scroll out four
hundred columns to find the 'ok' box. Why can't they automagically
snap the 'ok' box to the active screen? Why do they give the Windows
'X' option to close the window when it doesn't let you? Ugh.
The most common (smartass) answer to all my problems is "upgrade to
the latest version!" This is quite possibly the most annoying and
unsatisfying answer there is. The upgrade from 3.03 to 4.61 did not
fix my unclosable dialog box problem. It also added the auto-completion
headache to my list of prolems. While the upgrade from 3.x to 4.x was
no picnic, the upgrade from 4.61 to anything higher seems to be living
hell. Let me qualify by saying that I only use Navigator, not Composer,
Collabra, Messenger or anything else. So downloading a 18 MEG
archive to upgrade a few meg browser is absurd. More so that I am still
using a dialup and must invest several hours of time to perform this
upgrade. Not a chance.
On a whim, I decided to take this misguided advice and hit the Netscape
site anyway. Using my laptop and Netscape 4.04, I find more brilliance
pouring forth from Netscape.
To use SmartUpdate to manage your software components, you must
be running a Netscape Browser which is version 4.04 or later
(4.05 or later for Macintosh users.)
That is discouraging. After checking the browser version I do a
doubletake. Clicking on "go to netscape download":
You appear to be running:
Netscape Communicator 4.04: Windows 95/98 or NT: English (40 -bit
Now, perhaps I am just missing something, but that sure seems to match.
So much for a "SmartUpdate". As luck would have it, I had my laptop
on a high speed connection and decided to upgrade while I had the chance.
After the 18 meg download, the installation couldn't figure out how to
close my current browser and just sat there at 99% completion. Once I
helped it over that hurdle, I was forced into installing several extra
packages including AOL Instant Messenger, with no option of leaving
them out of the mix. Excuse me? What does AOL IM have to do with with
browsing the web?
Like I originally stated, I am an end user. There is no way I could relay
what type of headache the Netscape browser causes for web designers.
Demonika spends inordinate amounts of time trying to work out bugs in
the way Netscape renders HTML. I have tried to talk her into writing more
about the various problems, and she has written about
one annoying bug
so far. If she spent time writing about every little bug or problem,
she would never have time to design web pages.
Brian Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)