Free at last

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Netscape Communications Corp. is counting on free browsers to hold its leading browser market share, providing a base to drive what will be its two key revenue sources, the ad-supported Netcenter service and business Internet software. After mulling the idea for months, Netscape Jan. 22 began offering Communicator and Navigator browsers free to compete against Microsoft Corp., which has offered Internet Explorer free since 1995. Netscape, laboring to get past recent losses and layoffs, is pushing its free browsers in a sweepstakes promotion (including prizes from Sabre Group's Travelocity and GoGoWorldwide Vacations) and is pursuing deals with PC makers and Internet services to distribute the browsers. Partners are free to distribute customized versions, though if incompatible with the core product, it could mean their browsers can't carry the Netscape brand.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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