Netscape’s got Explorer beat.

Question: I am using Netscape Navigator as an Internet browser now, but there are so many ads pressuring to switch to Microsoft Explorer. Can you run a column comparing the two? I have also been unable to find out how much space Internet Explorer takes. Since I have a small hard drive this is a major consideration. –E.K.

Answer: That’s a big question these days. Microsoft desperately wants to own the Internet desktop. You see, it was caught with its pants down when the Internet came along. Netscape popped up out of nowhere and not only did it jump on the World Wide Web bandwagon, its creators actually invented the bandwagon.

Microsoft, determined not to be beaten, ran down the Internet track too and the war between the two companies began. With Microsoft’s marketing engine revving loudly, the rivalry now has all the makings of a holy war, similar to the one still quietly waging between parishioners of the Church of Macintosh and the congregation at the Microsoft Cathedral.

Before I compare the two browsers, though, I’m going to come clean at the outset and tell you I’m a Netscape Navigator devotee. With that out of the way, here are some comparisons.

Internet Explorer, with the mail and newsgroup reader add-on, is 76% larger than the basic Netscape Navigator installation (which includes built-in mail and newsgroups). Excluding the 979K add-on, the two programs are 5,285K vs. 3,539K.

Netscape is also 39% faster, according to its tests published on its website. Microsoft failed to do the comparison. It also takes less time to download (about half).

There are also more Netscape versions for more platforms. Microsoft offers versions for only Windows-based environments and Macintosh. There are also far more people out in Internet-land using Netscape Navigator than MS Explorer and consequently far more people design pages for it. The latest version of both browsers support the HTML 3.0 specification. That’s to say the coding language that is set by the Internet community can be read and displayed by both browsers. Both browsers have specialty HTML tags that produce unique display features, but Microsoft is playing catch-up, in my opinion.

As I said, I have a bias. Why? I use Netscape Navigator every day. It’s simply the better browser. I used to be the online communications director at what used to be the Southam New Media Centre in Edmonton (and is now CanWest Interactive in Toronto). I used to develop interactive web content for Southam’s newspapers. I’ve tried Explorer and while I was impressed with Microsoft’s ability to jump out of bed to get to the Internet in time for lunch, I haven’t seen any innovation worth mentioning. A majority of Explorer’s features have been copied from Netscape.

You see, software innovation is not Microsoft’s strength. Marketing is. The company has been good at it from Day 1. It’s why everyone uses Microsoft operating systems. You see, a big part of marketing is about pricing. In the Internet fight, Microsoft’s strategy is to give its browser away. As for Navigator, you technically need a software licence to use a release version beyond the 30-day trial. Thanks, though, to an eternal stream of beta versions, there are enough trial licences available that effectively make Netscape Navigator free too. Let’s not dwell on that, though. Buy a Navigator licence and support an innovative company.

If you want to read up on the two products and their features, check out the following two and