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October 17, 2001
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AOL 7.0: Good News for AOL Users & Microsoft - Bad News for Netscape & Mozilla

Mike Angelo -- 17 October 2001 (c)

AOL-Time-Warner's AOL division (America Online, Inc.) announced the release of its AOL 7.0 client software yesterday. According to the press materials, it looks as though there is lots of new and improved stuff in 7.0 for AOL users -- party time for AOLers. More about what's new and improved further down.

The news is not so good for the Netscape and Mozilla developers, however. AOL 7.0 uses Microsoft's Internet Explorer as its default Web browser. AOL left its own Netscape division's Netscape browser suite out of this party, entirely.

At one time the Netscape browser ruled the Windows and Linux desktops for Web surfing. Then Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) kicked the Netscape browser off the Windows desktop. More recently, the major Linux distributions effectively kicked Netscape off the Linux desktop too. For more about that please see our article Netscape 6.2 Browser-Suite Coming Soon? and our two-part series, Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? Part I: Linux Could Be Netscape's Last Browser Battlefield and Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6? .

If AOL were to have included the new Netscape 6.1 browser suite in its AOL 7.1 client software, that could have put Netscape on more than 30-million AOL user's desktops -- but AOL did not do that. Even worse for the Netscape developers, AOL does not seem to have any plans to include the Netscape browser suite in future AOL software releases either.

Andrew Weinstein is the America Online, Inc., spokesperson. We talked about the AOL 7.0 release and the Netscape issues in an e-mail discussion/interview with him, yesterday.

In that e-mail discussion/interview we asked Andrew Weinstein several questions about AOL selecting Microsoft's IE browser instead of the Netscape browser for AOL 7.0, and AOL's future plans for the Netscape browser. He told MozillaQuest Magazine that AOL is "continuing to look for additional opportunities to use the Gecko browser technology, but we have no announcements on switching the browser we use in the AOL client."

AOL's expressed interest in Gecko with no mention of Netscape does seem to imply that AOL does not intend to use Netscape as an entire product in future AOL releases. It also seems to lend some support to speculation that AOL will use the Komodo product, which uses Gecko, the Netscape rendering/layout engine.

This appears to be a follow-through on what Netscape (NSCP) President Jim Bankoff told Reuters in an interview reported by Reuters on 6 June 2001: "The browser is a crown jewel. However, six months from now, you won't consider Netscape to be a browser company,"

In that article, Reuters says, "Netscape is by no means rejecting its software legacy, as components of its browser technology will continue to power new features of Netscape's media services . . ." The Gecko engine is such a component of the Netscape browser technology.

We also asked Andrew Weinstein if the Netscape/Mozilla browser-suite bug and schedule problems had entered in to AOL's decision to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser instead of the Netscape browser in its AOL 7.0 client software. However, he would not comment on that.

The Netscape 6 browser suite is based upon the cross-platform (XP), open source, Mozilla browser-suite. The current Milestone Mozilla browser-suite release is Mozilla 0.9.4. It was released 14 September 2001.

Simply put, the Netscape Division grabs the Mozilla source code, adds its own and third party products such as Net2Phone and AIM, and then puts its own Netscape branding on the added-too and customized Mozilla-base. The Netscape Division also adds its portal and bookmark items to the Mozilla-base while customizing the underlying Mozilla browser suite. Stir all that together and voila, that's the Netscape 6 browser suite.

Netscape 6 was first introduced to the public in April 2000 as Netscape 6 Preview Release 1 (NS 6 PR1). It was very buggy and had a terrible user interface (UI). Thusly, it received lots of criticism from the trade press, users, and Netscape fans. The heavy criticism continued through two more preview releases, the Netscape 6.0 shipping release, and the Netscape 6.01 update release.

The Netscape 6.1 release offered lots of improvements and did not receive the heavy criticism that its predecessor, Netscape 6.0/6.01, had received. Nevertheless, Netscape 6.1 still has lots of problems.

The Netscape 6.2 offering is expected to be released any day now. It should be even better than Netscape 6.1. However, even if Netscape 6.2 is good enough to beat Microsoft's IE browser, it was not ready in time for the AOL 7.0 client software release.

Overall, Microsoft's Internet Explorer does not seem to be anywhere near as buggy as Netscape 6.1. Moreover, IE is easier to use and it provides a better user experience than does Netscape 6.1. So it is not all that surprising that AOL would use Microsoft Internet Explorer rather than its own Netscape 6 as the default browser for the AOL 7.0 client software.

Perhaps AOL is more interested in keeping its 31-million users happy than mollycoddling a few hundred Netscape/Mozilla developers. Unfortunately, the Netscape/Mozilla developers appear to be more interested in producing a never-ready developer-toy rather than a polished, end-user ready, product.

For more information about the Mozilla browser suite, please see our article Mozilla Milestone 0.9.5 Browser-Suite Released. For more information about Mozilla bugs and development progress, please see our articles Mozilla 0.9.5 Branched -- Buggier Than Ever and Mozilla Roadmap - Mozilla 1.0 Set Back to 2002

According to the AOL 7.0 press release here is what is new, improved, and enhanced in AOL 7.0.

What's New & Improved in AOL 7.0

* A fresh new look that puts local, community-focused features, shopping and resources front and center throughout the service to make AOL an even more relevant and valuable part of members' daily lives;

* Two new breakthrough features: Radio@AOL -- the first built-in radio service designed to make it easy for mass-market consumers to access their favorite music online -- and AOL Box Office -- offering one-stop access to tickets for events of every kind;

* Enhancements to the most popular features of AOL -- including e-mail, instant messaging and the Buddy List® feature, My Calendar, and the AOL Media Player -- all aimed at making AOL even faster, more reliable, and easier to use than ever before;

* An upgraded version of the popular "You've Got Pictures"SM service that allows members to upload pictures directly from any digital camera or scanners for one-stop viewing, sharing, storing and printing, and offers free, unlimited photo storage space and a bundled pricing plan for both prints and online photos;

* One-click access to the Internet's best selection of high-speed audio and video content threaded through AOL's Entertainment, Music, News, and Sports channels;

* Increased member services support including a new Help button on the AOL toolbar, providing advanced online help features to complement AOL's free 24-hour live customer service network; and

* A new "Goodbye" screen that provides information on TV shows that evening, new movie releases and other events, along with exclusive offers from AOL and its leading partners, as members sign off the service.

Enhancements to AOL's Most Popular Features

AOL 7.0 includes many enhancements to the popular features members are already using more than an hour a day, including:

* Enhanced e-mail that indicates whether recipients in an e-mail message are currently online, along with a one-click way for members to add new Screen Names to their Address Book and Buddy List;

* New instant message & Buddy List feature updates include the ability for members to quickly expand an instant message conversation with one person into a chat with multiple friends. Members can also customize their instant messages with more than 80 new Buddy Icon designs including characters and images from Harry Potter, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation's Looney Tunes;

* A new look and feel for Shop@AOL to make it even easier for members to search for and purchase goods and services. The new design highlights AOL's 100% shopping satisfaction guarantee for Shop@AOL purchases (see AOL Keyword: Guarantee) and the Quick Checkout "wallet," which sets the standard for online payment systems in both efficiency and security - to make shopping easy, safe and secure for all members;

* The new AOL Media Player, offering support for playback of members' own CDs in addition to nearly all major audio formats, volume control and the capabilities to load, play, and organize playlists;

* Automatic reminders via e-mail or wireless phone or pager for events noted in My Calendar and a new, comprehensive Event Directory offering a wide selection of local options to help members make plans and stay up-to-date with events taking place in their city;

* The next-generation of the Web site, launching in the coming weeks, with an expanded suite of e-mail and other features for members to access while away from home, including the ability for members to view their own Buddy List and send instant messages directly from the Web;

* Graphical smilies in People Connection Chat -- one of the top tested features in beta testing for 7.0;

* A soon-to-be-launched AOL Alerts feature that lets members choose to receive alerts they select about news, live sports scores and daily roundups, stock quotes, weather forecasts and inclement weather updates, and traffic reports either online or on their mobile device or pager; and

* Significant improvements in compatibility with screen readers, an assistive technology primarily use by people with visual impairments that speaks aloud what our sighted members see on the AOL service. A new Keyword: Accessibility provides help for using the AOL software with screen readers, screen magnification, voice recognition and other assistive technologies.


To create your own Netscape 6 themes or to build your own customized Mozilla-based browser suite, please see:

MozillaQuest the Series: Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser


AOL 7.0 Press Release

AOL 7.0 Product Summary (this is a 2,380-KB PDF file)

6 June 2001 Reuters Report as Published by Wired

To download and install the Netscape 6.1 browser suite, please see: Netscape 6.1 Browser-Suite Released Again?

For more information about the Mozilla browser-suite and downloading it, please see our recent article Mozilla Milestone 0.9.5 Browser-Suite Released

Please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front page ( regularly for updated news about the upcoming Netscape 6.2 release and for Netscape 6.2 download links when it is available. For updated Mozilla bug counts, please see the right sidebar on the MozillaQuest Magazine front page.

Stay Tuned

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Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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