As previously reported, AOL Time Warner are considering a move from the integration of Internet Explorer in their AOL browser and the first part of the change is upon us. They have started trialling the use of the Netscape/Mozilla rendering engine in their CompuServe software and if this is successful the AOL browser is likely to follow.
Netscape was once the king of Internet browsers and when Microsoft released their Internet Explorer it seemed slower and featureless in comparison. In 1999, however, AOL's purchase of the software has all but halted its development. The latest incarnations of Netscape are buggy and slow, plus they're packed with extra software which the user may not want.
The AOL browser, already renowned for being a bloated and memory hogging nuisance, would become less able to render web pages due to many being designed for Internet Explorer - as it's is the most widely used browser today. Web page designers would be forced to develop pages with more cross-compatibility and they'de also have to change current sites. According to analysts this move will be a blow to Microsoft's future strategy, although efforts so far to weaken Microsoft have failed. The AOL software is also the method AOL users have to use for logging on to the network, and if it became more unstable as a result of the change this could be very costly to AOL's prized achievement of having 33 million subscribers.
Microsoft have commented saying that "The real losers will be AOL users who will now be using inferior technology." and this move appears to be a result of the bitter legal arm wrestling currently taking place between AOL and Microsoft, as they fight over instant messaging, anti-trust and of course browsers. AOL have claimed Microsoft 'bullied' other companies with its monopoly and this step is looking like an attempt to strike back at Microsoft. Whether the change will make AOL better off, however, is questionable as a miracle will be needed (or a least a large cash injection) to make Netscape ready for general use.
News source: The Washington Post