AOL Working on Standalone Browser; Fate of Mac Version Unknown

America Online, Inc. is reported to be developing a Web browser based on Microsoft Internet Explorer technology. It is not known when the browser will be released or if a Mac version of the browser is also part of AOLs master plan.

eWeek is reporting AOL has been testing its own Web browser, dubbed "AOL Browser," for more than a month. AOL has declined to comment.

Unlike AOLis current browser, which is based on Mozilla code and built into its Internet software suite, the new browser will be available separately for anyone to download, the report said. The browser is expected to offer features not yet available in IE, such as tabbed browsing.

The move is being seen by industry experts as somewhat surprising, but part of a new strategy by the online leader to concentrate more of its business on Web-based services, such as e-commerce.

In May of 2003, Microsoft and AOL cut a deal over the private antitrust lawsuit filed by AOL in 2002. As part of the settlement, AOL Time Warner came away with a seven-year, royalty-free license to use Internet Explorer as its browser as well as the right to use Microsoftis entire Windows Media 9 Series digital media platform.

What is more difficult to understand is why AOL has chosen to base its software on Microsoft code rather than open source choices such as Mozilla or Konqueror. The current trend among users is away from IE, which is thought by many to be insecure, slow and lacking in features after seeing no update for over three years.