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AOL to ditch IE on Macs

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

America Online Inc is set to ditch Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer in favor of its own Netscape browser in the next version of its client software for Apple Computer Inc's Mac OS X, according to reports in the Mac community yesterday.

AOL beta testers have evidently received mail inviting them to test Java compatibility in the new browser, the second version AOL has released for the Mac OS X platform. Version 2 is said to have an interface that conforms to the "Aqua" look used on Macs.

The move by AOL is a further indication that the company is set to lose IE altogether. Its CompuServe service uses a browser based on Gecko, the rendering engine beneath Netscape, and the company is known to be testing a version of AOL 7.0 that also runs on Gecko, but it has so far avoided using non-IE technology in its flagship product.

AOL has been using IE for six years, since it inked a deal with Microsoft to use the software in exchange for AOL icons being placed on the Windows desktop. That deal expired in January 2001, and the companies decided not to renew it after disagreeing on terms such as the default media player.

Meanwhile, AOL's ties with Apple are growing. The companies last week revealed Apple's new iChat instant messaging application will be the first IM client from a major vendor to be able to interoperate with AOL's Instant Messenger. AOL has always kept its AIM network private, resisting attempts by Microsoft and Yahoo Inc to interoperate.

The impact of AOL's 34 million users switching to Gecko may not have any direct revenue implications for either company, but it would make it harder for Microsoft to unilaterally decide what technologies web developers should be using. Developers, particularly those writing for US consumers, would also find more headaches as they would be forced to write for more than one set of standards.

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