Version 3 browsers


On this page I describe the Version 3 browsers. They are those browsers that support document.images and window.focus, but none of the techniques of the higher browsers.

Netscape 3 | Hotjava 3 | QNX Voyager | WebTV | Opera 3
Introduction | Version 2 browsers | Version 4 browsers | Version 5 browsers

Netscape 3

With the release of Netscape 3, web programmers were again given more possibilities for true interaction. It quickly became the standard browser as a worthy successor to Netscape 2.

The most popular innovation was the document.images array, through which you can change images on the page and create the famous mouseover effect. Also, the new window.focus method was a very nice extra.

There's one famous Netscape 3 bug: the document.write bug. If you put a JavaScript with document.write in it inside a nested table (a table inside a table), Netscape 3 prints out the JavaScript instead of executing it. This bug is solved in Netscape 4.

Netscape 3 on Mac and Linux show the same qualities as their Windows counterpart.

Netscape 3 is still the standard for an excellent non-CSS/DHTML browser. Nowadays, it only has a market share of about 0.7 %, but it still works quite well as long as you don't mind the Netscape 3 users missing out on your CSS and DHTML.

Hotjava 3

Hotjava is a browser developed by Sun and completely written in Java. Frankly, it isn't very important but since it can be downloaded freely I installed it on my computers, tested its JavaScript capabilities and offer compatibility info.

Hotjava 3 is roughly at Netscape 3 level. It doesn't support CSS or DHTML, but its support for Version 3 HTML and JavaScript is good. To debug JavaScript, open the Console (View --> Show Console) and view the error messages. The messages are sometimes strange for someone used to Netscape, but they generally give useful information.

One very irritating feature of Hotjava is that when you hit 'Reload', it opens a new window with the old site, without your changes. It is generally nearly impossible to make Hotjava reload anything.

One very strange feature of Hotjava is that it supports document.layers, the DOM also supported by Netscape 4. This is the more strange since it doesn't actually seems to do anything with the DOM (none of my DHTML scripts work) and that it always complains that it cannot find document.all (Explorer 4's DOM). Since I always write my scripts to ensure that a document.layers capable browser only executes the document.layers bit of the script, I don't understand why Hotjava tries to execute the document.all bits.

As to the Mac version: it's horrible. First of all it starts up a kind of Java window and the browser inside this window, which means that you have two sets of scrollbars: one for the Java window and one for the browser. Furthermore, it crashes with disturbing regularity. Not recommended.

At this time (8/00) I've been detecting browsers for a year and some months. In total, I've captured about a million of them, exactly 1 of which was a Hotjava 3. So Hotjava 3 is not really used on the Internet. I've heard that it is sometimes used as internal browser on large Sun systems.
I never check my sites in it.

QNX Voyager

QNX Voyager is the native browser of the QNX RealTime OS. It is not to be confused with Amiga Voyager, which, as far as I know, is a completely different browser.

At the moment it is roughly Netscape 3 compatible. No CSS, no DHTML or advanced DOMs. Also, in its Version 3 implementation some things are missing. Most importantly, there's something wrong in cross-window scripting: my test script for opener doesn't work correctly. Dynamic options aren't supported either.
It has some problems with internal anchors (<a href="#gohere">).

Otherwise it seems pretty decent. I don't see a great future for it (unless a Version 4 is released), but it'll serve the needs of the QNX users.


WebTV is not a browser for a computer. Instead, it is meant to view web pages on a TV. Hence it has some severe limitations, the most important of which is that it has a small screen. It's been bought by Microsoft, which has redesigned the WebTV developer site. (Interesting details: the page is slightly too wide for WebTV, it is also not possible to click on some of the links in the Viewer).

I don't have a real WebTV, but I use the WebTV Viewer 2.6 to test my pages. As far as I understand the real WebTV is slightly better than the Viewer, so that everything that works in the Viewer should also work on WebTV. In addition, the real WebTV is automatically updated if there's a new patch or workaround, so that developers only have to worry about the latest version of WebTV.

WebTV has roughly the same CSS support as Explorer 3: piss poor. But I assume that they're working on it and that it'll become better in the future.

I cannot find any JavaScript error messages any more, while they were there in Viewer 2.0 . Annoying.

WebTV says it supports document.all and document.layers but in fact it doesn't execute any DHTML script, so I wonder why they bothered.

One interesting point is its treatment of popups. It used to treat them as new pages (since a TV by definition has only one screen), but now it appends the popup to the page that called it and scrolls down. Scrolling back up gives you the main page again.

Opera 3

Although little used, Opera 3 is an excellent browser if you accept its weaknesses. First of all it does not support DHTML. Secondly, there are some minor but irritating inconsistencies with Netscape and Explorer.

The great advantage of Opera is that the program itself is very light, thus excellently suited for older systems. For a browser so light, it offers very good CSS support and reasonable JavaScript support. It was the first browser to support P:first-line and P:first-letter, two of my favourites among the CSS declarations.

Expect the JavaScript to be slightly below Netscape 3 level. It lacks some good features like a return false on an onClick and can suddenly refuse to execute more complicated JavaScripts. A downside is the total lack of JavaScript Error Messages and JavaScript Consoles, so you cannot debug your scripts in Opera 3 except by guessing.

Opera cannot reload just one frame, it has to reload the whole window. Opera also has trouble with executing a cross-frame mouseover (See the support detection page for more details). Maybe Opera's handling of frames is fundamentally different from Netscape's and Explorer's.

Opera 3 is used by less than 0.1 % of the surfers. Nonetheless I usually check my sites in it, just to see what breaks and what doesn't.