Version 2 browsers


On this page I describe the Version 2 browsers. They are those browsers that support JavaScript, but none of the techniques of the higher browsers.

Netscape 2 | Explorer 3
Introduction | Version 3 browsers | Version 4 browsers | Version 5 browsers

Netscape 2

Netscape 2 was the very first browser that supported JavaScript. In its day, it set the standard for all other browsers. Suddenly, web programmers were able to offer some interaction to the users that didn't require constant re-loading of pages, but could be done in the browser itself. In its day, this was a radical novelty.

Expect Netscape 2 to support the solid core: most form manipulations, the basics of cross-frame scripting, pop-ups and date and time scripting. So all basic scripts work. What's more, with the Client Side JavaScript Reference Netscape created a resource of lasting value for all JavaScript programmers. Check this site for the exact differences between Netscape 2, 3 and 4.

Netscape 2 does not support document.images or window.focus.

One particularly nice feature are the clear and concise JavaScript Error Messages. Unlike certain other browsers, Netscape has from the beginning given us the chance to understand what's wrong with our JavaScripts and how to mend them. Seen from the end user, however, these error messages are a nuisance. That's why Netscape 4 replaced them with the JavaScript Console.

Netscape 2 has a security bug: you can read out the location of frames and windows that don't come from your server. For more information on why this is a security hole, see the Frame Busting page.

Generally the Mac version is slightly less good than the Windows version. For instance, it has some problems with pop-ups. Although it does open the pop-up, it doesn't load the requested page in it.

Netescape 2 exists for Linux but I don't get it properly installed on my test computer.

There is also a Netscape 2 for OS/2. I don't have an OS/2 computer, but a reader sent me some very interesting information. Although the browser is called Netscape 2 in fact it is Netscape 3 compatible, up to and including mouseovers. (Needless to say the users rarely saw the mouseovers because the scripts relied on a browser detect instead of a object detect. Naughty, naughty!)
That explains why I never ever detected a Netscape 3 on OS/2, while both 2 and 4 sometimes show up in my browser detect. It is possible to change the user_agent string to Netscape 3.

Netscape 2 is hardly used any more. In fact, it looks as if nowadays the Mac version is more popular than the Windows version. Even taken together, Netscape 2 amounts for less than 0.1 % of the users, so I don't take it into account any more. But Netscape 2 users are usually able to muddle through even if they miss out on the mouseovers and the DHTML.

Explorer 3

Microsoft's first attempt at an up-to date browser, Explorer 3 is quite impossible. Its implementation of both CSS and JavaScript are flawed and frankly unworkable. Basically, Explorer 3 knows enough of CSS to make your styled pages a complete disaster.

Explorer 3 does not support document.images or window.focus. Don't expect Version 3 JavaScript capabilities in Explorer. Its JavaScript is basically at Netscape 2 level, although it supports enough assorted small stuff to formally qualify as a JavaScript 1.1 browser.

One particularly cruel feature of Explorer 3 is the Microsoft JScript Runtime Error. It is quite impossible to use them to debug a JavaScript, and since Explorer 3 is by far the most sensitive browser and may produce these errors en masse, this can be a real pain.

Apart from making sure that they can reach the content, I don't do anything for Explorer 3 users any more. It was already far too much trouble in the Version 3 Era, although sometimes something had to be done. Now, in the Version 5 Era, they should download a better browser.


This goes all the more for the Mac version of this horrible browser. The most stunning bit is that it does NOT support any event handlers: no onMouseOver, no onClick, no onSubmit. This means that common scripts like form checking or even the Select box navigation do not work.

Furthermore it is quite buggy: more often than not it crashes on my site, even on pages that have no scripts at all. It crashes on when you use the opener for cross-window JavaScripting. Finally it tells the world that it supports document.images but it can't actually do anything with this array (even if it supported onMouseOver). To partially make up for all this horror, it is one of the few Version 3 browsers to support Date.getFullYear() for use in date and time scripts.

I found a rare document that describes JScript/VBScript in Explorer 3 (75 K zipfile of a very large Word document).