AOL 7.0 tests Netscape browser

America Online said Thursday that it has begun testing technology developed by Netscape Communications within its software, fueling speculation that it may replace Microsoft's Internet Explorer as its default Web browser.

In an e-mail to software testers, AOL said it is trying out Netscape's rendering engine, dubbed "Gecko," on its latest software, AOL 7.0. Gecko technology allows Web pages to be displayed, serving as a foundation for Web browsers. AOL and Netscape are both divisions of AOL Time Warner.

The project--codenamed "Talon," according to one beta tester--comes as AOL is testing Gecko on online service CompuServe, which it owns. Now AOL has expanded the tests to its flagship service, a move the could reignite a browser war by making Netscape the default for some 34 million Web surfers.

"We've been testing Netscape's Gecko on CompuServe since fall, and AOL is just beginning to test now," AOL spokesman Jim Whitney said. "We've invested significant resources in continuing to develop Gecko, and it is great technology."

Launching new versions of the AOL service without Microsoft's IE, long AOL's default browser, could cause an enormous rift between the two technology giants. For years, the companies have fiercely battled in the marketplace and in the federal courts, but they have maintained a business relationship. Now, there are signs that AOL and Microsoft are gearing up for a cold war.

News source: C|Net - News.com

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