CNET has posted a write-up of AOL’s new Netscape prototype based on Firefox, as well as a screenshot. It seems to be a combination of Firefox + theme + bundled extensions… plus a mode that embeds Internet Explorer for compatibility.

There are some nice ideas: adapting Firefox’s RSS capabilities to create a headline ticker, for instance, and the Firefox team has been talking about bundling extensions since it was called Phoenix. As for the embedded IE mode… on one hand it provides a convenient solution to the biggest criticism laid on all non-IE browsers: they don’t render pages exactly the way IE does. But it comes at the cost of all the security risks inherent in IE itself. It does remind me of the “View with Gecko” option Konqueror used to have (and probably still does on some systems).

But the clutter… The sheer number of buttons, icons, widgets etc. in that screenshot is staggering. Even after installing the web developer extension I don’t think I have that many buttons on Firefox. 3+ buttons on the tab bar, 3 icons on each tab…. I hope that CNET was just enabling every feature they could find to get them all in one screenshot, but if AOL is trying to bill it as “easier” than Firefox (which was created with a simple user interface as a design goal), they’ve got to try another approach.

Update (via WaSP): It seems BetaNews has more information on the dual-engine setup. Apparently they do have security settings to mitigate the IE issues… but then so does IE, and we all know how well that’s worked. Also, another screenshot, which looks even more cluttered than CNET’s. I think this will be a browser that requires you to run it maximized at 2000×1500. (Also of note: Firefox developer Blake Ross’ Open Letter to Netscape and Henrik Gemal’s collection of screenshots.)

Further Update: MozillaZine has posted a more thorough review.

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