October 8, 2004 11:32 AM PDT

AOL prepares its own browser

America Online is planning to release its own stand-alone Web browser based on Microsoft's Internet Explorer technology, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

AOL Browser, as it's called, will be available as a separate download for Web users. The software will be based on a stripped-down version of IE and will be branded with AOL's logos, the sources said. Up until now, the Time Warner division has only offered a browser that's tied to its popular Internet service. That browser also uses IE technology.

Because it merged with Netscape Communications in 1999, AOL already has its own stand-alone browser. But unlike the AOL Browser, the Netscape browser is based on technology from Mozilla, an open-source browser whose development used to be funded by AOL. AOL's Netscape unit, however, has largely kept a low profile, and its once-dominant browser has just a whisper of market share compared with IE.

Microsoft last year granted AOL a seven-year royalty-free license to use IE technology in its products. The license was one of many concessions that Microsoft offered AOL as part of a $750 million settlement in an antitrust lawsuit filed by Netscape in January 2002.

However, one source familiar with the new software said the Microsoft settlement and IE license did not play a factor in AOL's decision to develop its own browser.

An AOL representative declined to comment for this report. Details of the AOL Browser were first reported by eWeek.

The browser wars of the late 1990s that pitted Microsoft against Netscape have long concluded, leaving IE as the undisputed heavyweight champion. Some developers have characterized the period since then as a dry spell for browser innovation, and have criticized Microsoft for shelving IE development.

Meanwhile, alternative browsers such as open-source Firefox and Apple Computer's Safari offer more features than IE and are gaining a following among sophisticated Web users. Netscape founder Marc Andreessen this week said that the rise of these new software products may prompt Microsoft to reignite the browser wars.

Competition may be a good thing, Andreessen added, claiming that browser innovation has been at a standstill since 1998.

7 comments

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It Figures.....
AOL always has been an internet garbage site, so using the
internet's garbage collector as a base for it's 'new' browser is
consistant. One of these years, I might even go to the AOL web
site to see what this 'new' browser is all about.

How can AOL talk about a 'new ' browser when AOL says that it's
a very stripped down version of IE.

Why bother?
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just what I was looking for...
A less-functional IE browser with AOL logos all over it. How have I been surviving without it? Oh that's right, I use Firefox.
Posted by BrandonR (24 comments )
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Doesn't solve the problem
There are already few browsers that are sitting on top of IE like Maxthon. Though they bring some good features, it doesn't solve the problems that IE is facing. Morever, these IE clone browsers don't bring the right kind of feeling that one get from Firefox.
Posted by vvrrmandiga (2 comments )
Link Flag
Even less functional?
How can they do that? They removed the buttons or what?

Also, how can M$ license IE technology seperately when everything is only available as an integrated part of the OS?

AOL will be releasing software for M$: need a standalone IE? Download if from AOL...

Anyway, don't see why I would be downloading the stuff. If you want IE, just pick your regular M$ os...
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Link Flag
AOL logos? Where? It wasn't even released when you wrote this, and I haven't seen an AOL logo on it yet. I've been using it since 2006... v1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, and now 2.1.
Granted, since IE7 came out, it is not really needed, but on top of IE6, it was was very good.
I find the interface on v2.1 more appealing than even Firefox v3.
Posted by a62dave (4 comments )
Link Flag
I'm confused!
AOL has access to one of the best browser engines available, Gecko (as used in Mozilla/Firefox/Camino/etc) and would rather use ratty old IE?

I wonder if they'll ship it for any other platforms besides Windows; it would be a decent way for Mac users to get free access to the MacIE 6 Core that was developed but never released standalone, rather only as part of MSN:mac and Office:mac.

Granted I can't say I'd be that excited about having an "AOL Browser" - but OTOH, it might also be a good way to test websites to see how they'll function in the "real" AOL.
Posted by jegrant (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Semantics and logic my dear chaps
First of all what AOL means by a stripped down version of IE is in fact not that at all. What they are (in fact have now) creating is a new browser using the IE objects now available as an open collection through the .net framework. That's why it will be less functional than IE - it won't be as complete.
So why use IE? Basically it is the browser with the biggest footprint; whether you accept it or not - there are now many (particularily MS) technologies deployed on the net that need IE 6 (most other browsers only have ms compatibility to 4 or 5). The reason that this is important to AOL is because they try to encourage (nay force) you to use their connectivity and browser technolgies and no other (for reasons of targeting advertising) - so if they used the mozilla source they would have many users (particulrily in the corporate world) that can't access ubiquitous technologies such as SharePoint services - no good!
The fact is that MS will always hold the cutting edge in browser technolgies while ever they offer the cutting edge in technolgies integrated with such. Whether you like it or not it is a fact that IE is the most functional browser out there and you do nothing but delude yourself to think otherwise.
As a developer let me address another point raised. The reason for using the mozilla source against .net source (aside from reasons above) is because, despite common misconception, the .net framework is open but not the source. This means you can use all of the objects in your own code. So when you hear mozilla waxing on about open source just realise that this means nothing but being able to see the code inside inferiour objects. Lets face it - the guys at mozilla (smart as they are and far better devs than me for sure) are just a bunch of people that were'nt good enough to get jobs as MS.
Posted by dmines (1 comment )
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