13-Mar-02

AOL To Dump Internet Explorer

The Browser Wars are reborn as AOL (America On Line) moves to wrest itself free from Microsoft's grasp.

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AOL's version 8 software (current version is 7) will be based not on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but on the Mozilla derived Gecko rendering engine. AOL officials stated that this was not speculation, but a done deal - the only thing that could delay it would be to give affiliated Web sites time enough to remove Microsoft specific "extentions" and comply with international standards.

This is very good news for users of Mozilla, Opera and other standards compliant web browsers, who have been blocked from an increasing number of Web sites. Microsoft's Internet Explorer runs only on Windows and Macs. Mozilla runs on Windows, Macs, OS/2, Linux, Unix and other platforms.

In other AOL News, AOL is negotiating a support deal with Linux distributor Red Hat, since they are moving all their servers to Linux. This is not a loss for Microsoft, but for Sun, since AOL's level of traffic could never have been supported by low performance Windows servers.

Analysis

Pundits who declared Microsoft undisputed winner of the "browser wars" failed to properly account for AOL's survival instinct. As one of the top three targets on Microsoft's "enemies list" (Linux, Sony, AOL), AOL clearly has to look out for itself. So long as they depended on Internet Explorer as the core of their proprietary software, Microsoft could yank their chain any time it pleased.

AOL had bought the crushed remains of Netscape, but seemingly did nothing much with the Navigator browser. In actuality, they were quietly financing Mozilla.org, which was creating an Open Source Web browser loosly based on Netscape Navigator code. Owning the contributor of the original code, AOL has the right to apply Mozilla code to its own purposes.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has moved to solidify it's monopoly by encouraging Web designers to create Web sites that only work with Internet Explorer. Microsoft's cheaply available Web tools can produce standards based sites, but only in the hands of a highly experienced designer. Most don't bother - they just tell people using other browsers to get Internet Explorer.

Now, with AOL's 30 million subscribers soon to transition to a Mozilla derived browser, Web designers will be scrambling to strip Microsoft specific code from their sites. AOL has the largest single block of Web users in the world, and combined with those using Mozilla, Navigator and Opera, should account for over 33% of Web traffic. This is a larger percentage of the customer base than most businesses wish to lose.

While AOL is certainly no more altruistic than Microsoft, we applaud their efforts to take on the Beast of Redmond. It will create the breating room alternatives need to survive.

Automation Access uses and endorses the Mozilla Web browser. Aside from being fast and capable, It does not secretly transmit information about your computer to Microsoft, does not allow unanounced updates to your software, and does not have the virus vulnerability and security holes featued in the "leading browser".

- Andrew Grygus

Links

  • The Register - AOL embraces Linux and Mozilla, plans to drop MS Explorer
  • Salon - Mozilla's Revenge

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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