August 2, 2005

New, Free AOL Browser

Because I’m a web developer, it’s important that I preview my sites in as many different browsers and OSes possible. This is the *only* reason I downloaded and tried out the new AOL browser based on a version of IE6. Why AOL decided to use the outdated and in-compliant IE6 is beyond me… especially with all the great stuff coming from (read: Firefox). Heck, even the latest Netscape browser (albeit bloated and hardly usable IMO) uses Firefox code as it’s core. Anyway, the new AOL browser was a unique experience from download to launch.

First, the link to download only shows up randomly on So to get to it, you’ve gotta refresh the page a couple times… or do a search. It downloads a downloader file which when run, downloads the installer file. I guess since AOL does cater to the lowest common denominator web user, who might be on a 56k or even a 28.8 connection, I can understand the choice to use the downloader… it should be an option though. When I ran the installer, I had no choices or options for anything. Guess AOL thinks that we trust them enough to install whatever they want w/o letting the user know what’s going on. Luckily this is all happening on one of my virtual “machines”, so if it sucks too much or craps all over the system, I can go back to a pre-AOL state pretty easily.

With the AOL browser freshly installed, I double-clicked on the odd-looking globe icon (what a unique choice for an icon… I’m being sarcastic) and was thrown into a full-screen browser experience. I’ve got tabs (one point), integrated RSS (two points) and my default homepage and Favorites auto-set to match my IE6 settings (three points… that is, assuming IE was my default browser). Wait, what’s this? AOL wants to check my computer for Spyware… and there’s no “No” button? I thought this was a web browser, what are system tools doing in AOL (minus 1 point)? The Spyware box opens up like every few minutes… it’s like AOL thinks I’m some “internet clutz” downloading and installing unsigned software left and right.

The search box attached to the browser window is AOL search only… not my preference, although is quite a bit slicker than it has been in the past, say 3+ years ago (minus 2 points). Overall, AOL browser has nothing to add to the current lineup of web browsers. It’s nothing more than a bloated interface on top of outdated browser software.

If you want tabs, get Firefox or any of the numerous others. If you want a Desktop Search, look to your OS. If you want Spyware protection, look to the leaders in the field, not an internet company. But, if you’re currently using AOL, have an email address and *need* everything you use your computer for squeezed into a single package, there are worse choices than AOL browser. Just plan on upgrading again very soon, since it’s just a bloated version if IE6, your browsing experience will be marred by Internet Explorer’s shortcomings.

Related Links:
AOL Downloads: Download AOL Explorer


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