America Online Testing Stand-Alone Web Browser

Rhett Pardon
DULLES, Va. — America Online Inc. has been testing its own web browser as it attempts to expand its reach past its “walled garden.”

The Dulles, Va.-based company created the AOL Browser as stand-alone software without the need of the America Online client software to be running when it is used.

While no definitive launch date has been made, AOL Browser is expected to join the browser market dominated by Microsoft, Netscape and open-source browsers like Mozilla and Firefox, as well as the so-called “Gbrowser” by Google.

The AOL Browser contains features from the current Internet Explorer software, which it is based on, and includes extras such as tabbed browsing and "tear-off tabs," where a tabbed window can be torn off into a new window.

It also includes a "clear my footprints" feature allowing for fast clearing of browser history, cookies, cache and recent searches.

The browser, which includes AOL’s trademark “Running Man” graphic for page-load progress, also includes a pop-up blocker, a preview of pages represented by buttons or tabs and can display thumbnail images of pages.

America Online, which profits mostly through monthly subscriber fees, is attempting to find new sources of income now that millions of its members have slowly defected to cheaper Internet service providers.

And the browser strategy apparently has been designed to help steer new traffic to a shopping site — in-store.com — it recently launched and to a soon-to-be overhauled AOL.com website.

The company launched a new $30 million brand campaign earlier this week, featuring a redesigned logo and an eight-point set of commitments that collectively promise to provide a better web surfing experience.

The ad campaign ran in The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.