Communicator 4.61 Out

Tuesday June 15th, 1999

A new Communicator is at the ftp site, with more bugfixes. ZuperDee writes, "For those of you waiting patiently for Communicator 5.0 to be released, Netscape has now released 4.61. It contains some security enhancements, and various bugfixes. You can find it here. Notice that it is now in a different place from where it used to go."

Thanks to ZuperDee and Peter Fabian for the news.

#1 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by wheezy

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 3:20 PM

I don't claim to know much about what goes on behind the scenes of Netscape development, but I am a little surprised by the continuing work on the 4.x series of browsers. One large component of JWZ's now-famous departing rant was the fact that Netscape is poorly allocating resources, with excessive (in his opinion) effort on 4.x support and insufficient drive towards 5.0. As I said, I don't know what the distribution of development effort is at this moment, but having seen three 4.x's released since Jamie's resignation, I am curious what Netscape's master plan is. Anybody have any insight?

#2 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Kovu

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 3:27 PM

yipe did you see all the bugs this guy found with Javascript?,290,37842,00.html? Netscape actually recommends disabling Javascript until a fix is found. Looks like 4.7 will be along anytime! At this rate there won't be a Communicator 5.0 for more than ten minutes. Hell, I just got my 4.51 CD a couple days ago!

#3 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Kovu

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 3:30 PM

They can't be devoting too much time to 4.x, there have been no real functionality upgrades, and the ones that have been will also go into 5.0. I see nothing wrong with keeping up with security issues, and the goose to speed it up roughly on par with IE5 was just enough to keep them competitive.

#4 Migrating 4.x to 5.x

by Anon

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 3:55 PM

IMHO it would be good if netscape would "migrate" some GUI parts of 4.x version to have the look&feel of the 5.x version. One example would be the Messenger 5.0, which is much improved in functionality. 4.x Messenger can cut-out here come ideas and improvements like the advanced attachment pane etc.

#5 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by zuperdee

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 4:55 PM

To Wheezy: I don't know much about the development scene at Netscape either, but I do remember one of the Netscapers telling me once that they are not spending too much in development resources on 4.x anymore. He says they have a small team composed of mainly non-SeaMonkey people, who are now only doing small things like security enhancements and bugfixes. Most of the development effort is concentrated on SeaMonkey at this point.

And this is okay in my opinion. After all, many open source development efforts do this. Example: Alan Cox just released (hopefully) the last of the 2.0.x Linux kernels. But most of the development is going on in 2.3.x now.

No, what Netscape is doing on 4.x now is far different from what Zawinski was complaining about, which was that Netscape was putting practically *everything* they had into doing major new features for the 4.5 release, and doing this in parallel with what they were doing on Mozilla.

Even then, I am not entirely convinced of Zawinski's arguments. If you read the Mozilla-At-One paper that appeared on shortly after Zawinski's resignation essay, the author raised a good point: considering Netscape's market needs for a new release at the time, would they have done as well to put their all into SeaMonkey from the start, and had a longer interval of people waiting from the 4.0x release to a new one? On the surface of it: yes, SeaMonkey might have been done sooner. But it isn't that easy. The other question was: would people have been willing to wait that long for a major new version in between 4.x and SeaMonkey? This is a much more difficult question to answer. In my opinion, yes the 4.x releases are absolutely terrible, but in the software business, if a product is not given a major new release every once in a while, people will begin to think it is becoming obsolete. And no, bugfix releases are not enough. It is important to remember that people do not buy new versions of software mainly for bugfixes.

In the open source world, it is much more feasable for people to download a small patch to get a bugfix, but the traditional software market is quite different. That is why this is so tricky. And especially since Netscape is still learning the open source thing, I think we can rest assured that Netscape did (and is continuing to do) the best it can, given the situation it is in. SeaMonkey is now their real chance to redeem themselves for the garbage that they shipped for the 4.x releases. So let us give them a little bit of leadway on this.

#6 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by arielb

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 5:44 PM

Communicator 4.x is not garbage. I use it instead of other browsers because it really is easier to use and more powerful for day to day browsing

#7 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Kovu

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 6:23 PM

You're right arielb, though I don't think zuperdee meant Communicator being garbage in GUI, usability, etc. as he did the proprietary coding and all that which is garbage, really. And when you compare 4.x to 5.0, the fact that you can have Webmail accounts and multiple POP3 accounts on the same user, well, 4.x is garbage in that light. Don't get me wrong, I just ordered some IE-branded toilet paper the other day, and if Netscape is garbage, well . . . :)

#8 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by zuperdee

Tuesday June 15th, 1999 7:15 PM

To arielb: The reason I say 4.x is garbage is not because of the features/UI. On that front, yes I like 4.x's feature set. I think 4.x is easier to use in some ways than MSIE. But 4.x also came out with far too many bugs.

And I am not the only one who thinks this. To quote Jamie Zawinski:

[When was created], I strongly believed that Netscape was no longer capable of shipping products. Netscape's engineering department had lost the single-minded focus we once had, on shipping something useful and doing it fast. That was no longer happening. Netscape was shipping garbage, and shipping it late.

And daring move or no, this was not going to change: Netscape no longer had the talent, either in engineering or management, to ship quality products. The magic was gone, as the magicians had either moved on to more compelling companies, or were having their voices lost in the din of the crowd, swamped by the mediocrity around them.

The Netscape I cared about was dead.

And from

Our goal was for 5.0 to be a high quality release, and it is a little disappointing that we didn't get a chance to redeem ourselves after doing 4.0, which we allowed out of the building with more bugs than we should have (but you never heard that from me.)

#9 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Blackhand

Wednesday June 16th, 1999 1:40 PM

Ok, so I got off on a little bit of a rant.

The other thing to remember is when Netscape was developing Netscape 4.5 is that Seamonkey was being prepared for Netscape 6.0, not 5.0. Even after Mozilla changed over to Seamonkey Netscape hadn't decided if they were going to follow.

As for being able to ship a product fast that was stable. I think Zawinski is forgetting how much more complex web browsers have to be to support all the features. A program that supports more features takes longer to create stabily. Also Netscape probably made the same mistake just about every other company makes. We have twice the features, we'll just hire twice the number of programmers.

Unfortunatly programming doesn't work that way. Actually, if you have to many programmers working on one project then it will take longer to build and won't be as stable a product.

Let us take Linux for example. How many people are actually working on the kernel. The simple answer is 1. Linus keeps tight control over it for a reason. Now many moduals are build around the core by many people, but those are small groups working on pieces.

This is the way Mozilla is developing and I think is a good thing. Yes, many people work on the modual, but if you really look at it, there's only really 1 person that integrates the changes in to the program its self.

This results in features taking a little more time in getting in the code, but its more likely they work when they do.

Thats why I see great hope in Netscape 5.0, and don't have a problem with them working on the old code base.

*Now what was it I was talking about? :o)*

#10 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by SomeSmartAss

Wednesday June 16th, 1999 2:20 PM

This release was incorperated into SmartUpdate remarkably quiclky (like 2 days) they seem to be getting the proccess down... now if they can just update the plug-in .jars too.

#11 Why?

by Anon

Thursday June 17th, 1999 11:34 AM

I don't notice Netscape bothering to put up notices or press-releases advertising 4.6x etc ..... why?

My own theory is that they are realeasing bugfixes so if someone says "My JS is screwed" they can say "Have you got 4.6x? No? Get it.". But in the meantime, maybe it makes sense from a marketing point of view to release nothing with a big media spectacle until 5.0. This would make the 5.0 release something spectacular, the media pundits could go crazy saying "Just as MS had it wrapped up, the new browser from challenger Netscape is faster, better, etc...".

-=Yusuf=-, not sure if he's getting his point across coherently.

#12 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by zuperdee

Thursday June 17th, 1999 12:23 PM

Actually, there is a VERY good reason why Netscape has not (and should not) put out press releases about these bugfix releases. And it is quite simple: people generally do not want to upgrade their software JUST for the sake of bugfixes. The only time they will ever want to upgrade for bugfixes is if they happen to hit on some of the bugs, or if they are paranoid about security.

And yes, I agree the other reason, which is mainly complementary to this one, is that putting out press releases that often would simply spoil the effect of press releases about the major new releases like 5.0 will be... And believe me, Netscape 5.0 is going to be lightyears ahead of competitors when it comes out, unless Microsoft releases IE 6.0 at that time, which is unlikely... And even supposing they do, I think this will ONLY put them on par with Netscape 5.0. Netscape 5.0 is, IMHO, almost the equivalent of 2 major new releases that have been consolidated into 1, and that is one of the reasons it is taking so long to come out. It will be awesome. Things like FULL HTML 4.0, CSS1, XML, and W3C DOM compliance, plus new Netscape-invented features like chrome and XUL.

Incidently, I was at the XUL Toolkit meeting at Netscape last Monday, and Netscape is hoping that XUL will take off the way JavaScript did. And I predict this is exactly what WILL happen. XUL is another cool technology. And I think it will anger Bill Gates a lot.

#13 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by SomeSmartAss

Thursday June 17th, 1999 1:49 PM

"Netscape is hoping that XUL will take off the way JavaScript did"

Not according to Bruce...


#14 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by PaulA

Thursday June 17th, 1999 3:59 PM

SomeSmartAss - Maybe I'm missing the obvious, but which Bruce, and what did he say?

#15 Re:They Call Him Bruce

by SomeSmartAss

Thursday June 17th, 1999 7:48 PM


Bruce (aka Anthony aka MozillaSuporterNotAssKisser) is a member here with some really pointed opinions about XUL that he shared with the rest of us on another MozillaZine news Item . Its quite lenghty (300+ posts), and I don't realy recomend going through it all (or any of it, realy). I was just living up to my Moniker.

#16 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Anon

Thursday June 17th, 1999 8:25 PM

NSCP have to ensure that the existing products are kept maintained reasonably well. That means improving performance when they can, fixing bugs. 5.0 isn't due till the end of the year, so NSCP must keep maintaining 4.x until then.

As long as they only do fixes, I'm happy. As long as there's only a few people still on 4.x, that's fine. As long as the main focus is 5.x, that's ok.


#17 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by arielb

Thursday June 17th, 1999 8:29 PM

Well Bruce isn't Netscape. However they do share his (and others) concerns about this extremely new technology

#18 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by arielb

Thursday June 17th, 1999 8:38 PM

how could they come out with IE6 if IE5 is part of W2k which didn't ship yet? Remember that their strategy of IE in the OS means that both have to come together. And MS can't come out with a new OS every 6 months because that would drive all the corporations nuts

#19 Re:

by asa

Friday June 18th, 1999 8:43 AM


I think MS will come out with a new OS every six months. The plans are already beginning to show in their release of '98 2nd edition. They're going to have to start competing with opensource projects which fix things and make improvements at a much swifter pace. MS will probably stop delivering service packs with bug fixes and additions in favor of shipping a re-packaged, updated version of the OS that they will charge for every 6 months to a year.

...just my view of the future...


#20 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by FrodoB

Friday June 18th, 1999 9:25 AM

Or even worse....

MS will update every month or so, but you'll be paying a monthly rental fee to use it. The day that happens is the day I drop Windows cold turkey (hell, by that point I'll just get a PowerMac G4 [or whatever it's up to by then] and run a Windows emulator.... It'll be quick enough on a good high end machine). Sadly, signs may be pointing to such a day soon. Ah well. At least there are legitimate alternatives to Windows (that crash less, are easier to use in many situations, and that very rarely require frequent patching because they're stable to start with).

#21 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Kaoslord

Friday June 18th, 1999 11:51 AM

Idont think this is a bad release, the way I see it new bug fix releases should be out very steadily, trying to make many many versions so when 4.7 is relased lets say, people will go download it find bugs and NS will fix em and add another number to ther release then by the time Bob Lazy gets to download 4.7 he will download 4.74 and have a nice stable release. The pont here is to fix bugs as they are found so pople dont have to wait a month for a bug fix, another usefull thing would be patching through smart update.

#22 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Anon

Friday June 18th, 1999 1:59 PM


#23 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Anon

Monday June 21st, 1999 11:34 AM

By the time Netscape WaterMellon-or-what-ever is out, Microsoft will have released Internet Explorer 2000, 2001, ..., 2010. Give it up. There's no way NS will ever be able to compete with Microsoft on this. No matter what ones feelings are towards Microsoft, IE is actually an extremely good product. It's fast, powerful, and supports the very latest standards (not fully, but it's way ahead anything else on the planet)

#24 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by Anon

Monday June 21st, 1999 11:53 AM

By the time Netscape WaterMellon-or-what-ever is out, Microsoft will have released Internet Explorer 2000, 2001, ..., 2010. Give it up. There's no way NS will ever be able to compete with Microsoft on this. No matter what ones feelings are towards Microsoft, IE is actually an extremely good product. It's fast, powerful, and supports the very latest standards (not fully, but it's way ahead anything else on the planet)

#25 Re:Communicator 4.61 Out

by FrodoB

Monday June 21st, 1999 12:19 PM

Except, dun dun dun, Mozilla. And since Mozilla's gonna be out in final form by the time the Apocalypse rolls around on December 31st, there's nothing to worry about that comes from Redmond. Except maybe NintendOS.