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    A few years ago, when I first started surfing the web, I was a diehard Netscape fan. My trusty version 3.04 Navigator easily out performed it's competition the Internet Explorer 3 browser. In fact, at that time three quarters of all web surfers were using a Netscape browser. This has all changed.

    Shortly after the arrival of the fourth generation browsers, Internet Explorer's popularity increased rapidly. Most will attribute this to Microsoft's enormous campaign to promote the browser and the fact that it was integrated into the Windows 98 operating system. This is undeniable, but it is also undeniable that IE 4.0 was a superior browser.

    Now that IE 5 is on the scene with all it's fantastic features, it appears that Netscape has fallen too far behind to ever catch up. If the preview release of Netscape's newest release is any indication of the future of this browser then this browser may not have a future. So what happened to Navigator? You won't have much trouble finding varied opinions on this subject. I personally believe that hooking up with AOL was (to put it mildly) counterproductive.

    So what about the other browsers? It's true that a small percentage of web surfers are using the Mosaic browser and Opera has gained moderate popularity. These two browsers do not support most html 4.0 specifications and probably never will. WebTv is such a ridiculous concept to me that I refuse to even recognize it as a browser.

Ok, so how does all this browser stuff affect the way that we build our web pages? Well, we have a few choices.

1. We can stick strictly to html 3.2 specifications and avoid those few attributes that are not cross browser. Functional but very boring.

2. We can build two or three versions of our site to accommodate each browser. Doesn't that sound like fun.

3. We can build our sites to html 4.0 specifications being very careful to avoid any elements that are not compatible with both IE and Netscape. Could drive you crazy.

4. We can build our sites to their full potential and cater to the best and most popular browser (Internet Explorer) and say "sorry about your luck" to Netscape users.

    I'm definitely leaning more and more to option 4. It is becoming increasingly harder for Netscape users to defend their browser. How often do you come across software that requires that you have IE installed? How often do you find a cool script that will only work with IE browsers? Now why would you want to stay with the inferior Netscape? I just don't get it. Especially when IE is free and only a download away.



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