Is Netscape the Browser for the Next AOL?

There have been many rumors on developer forums over the last week or so that AOL is testing Netscape in the AOL software. They’ve all been just rumors until recently, when some news sites have posted quotes from real, live AOL representatives.

AOL spokesman Jim Whitney confirmed on Thursday that a beta version of CompuServe has shipped with Netscape as the browser, and that they’ve been testing it since the fall. He also stated that they’ll be testing Netscape with the AOL service as well, which has a worldwide customer base of 34 million users. AOL 8.0, due to ship in the fall, is likely the earliest version of the AOL service that could integrate Netscape.

With AOL’s purchase of Netscape in 1999, and with AOL letting its agreement with Microsoft to use Internet Explorer as the browser of choice expire in January of 2001, some feel it’s just been a matter of time before AOL would start to roll Netscape out as the default browser for the AOL service. Microsoft isn’t so convinced AOL will move its user-base away from Internet Explorer given that AOL has been threatening it for years but hasn’t yet moved. This, of course, ignores the January lawsuit AOL filed against Microsoft. Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said, “AOL has had the ability to change browsers since they purchased Netscape back in 1998, so it’s not surprising that they might make that decision. But Internet Explorer is by far the best technology because it provides users the best experience on the Internet. But the decision remains AOL’s.”

Jupiter Media Metrix analyst David Card walks away with the best quote to date, when commenting on whether or not AOL would really make the shift to Netscape from Internet Explorer: “Serious software companies don’t ship open source. They may start with it but they build products on it. You just have to be serious about the business and I don’t think they are serious (about Netscape).”

Some news bits:

Track new links in the comments below, I think we’d all like to see the progression of this story.

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