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New generation of browers emerges

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Software

The major Web browsers are getting facelifts as they increasingly become the place for handling business transactions and running programs over the Internet rather than simply displaying sites.

The upgrades are the latest skirmish in the browser war that started in the mid-1990s and led to Microsoft's triumph over Netscape. The battles reignited in 2004, when Mozilla's Firefox launched and revealed new avenues of development.

Today, Opera Software ASA is releasing its Opera 9 browser, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox are in line for major overhauls.

The most anticipated update comes from Microsoft Corp., whose 5-year-old, market-leading Internet Explorer 6 browser, or IE6, shows signs of aging.

Firefox 2, a "beta" version for which is planned this summer and a full version by September, will also include anti-phishing features, along with tools to automatically restore Web pages should the browser suddenly crash or require a restart. Other features in the Mozilla browser include a search box that can suggest queries as users type.

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