AOL is delaying the release of its new Netscape browser to fix some last-minute bugs, the company has said.

The beta version of Netscape 8 was due to be available tomorrow, but that date will slip by a week or two, an AOL spokesman said. An early version of the browser seen late last month continually crashed.

The new browser is designed to protect users from scams and malicious code while surfing the Web. It includes a feature that adjusts the browser security settings based on a list of known malicious websites to protect users from phishing scams.

AOL is hoping to steal some of Internet Explorer market share by drawing attention to its poor security record. And it hopes to piggyback on the popularity of Firefox, the open source Web browser released in November that has been downloaded over 25 million times.

In an about-face, Microsoft this week said it would release a test version of a new Explorer browser in the spring or summer. Previously the company had said it would not release a new browser until the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, in 2006. There has not been a new version of Explorer in four years.

Phishing scams are a prevalent type of online attack that typically combines spam and fraudulent Web pages that look like legitimate e-commerce sites. The attacks are designed to steal sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers.

Netscape 8 is based on Firefox but also supports the Explorer browser engine and as a result, only works on Windows computers.