AOL Moving to Gecko
Monday March 11th, 2002
Newsforge, and others are reporting that the AOL client will use Gecko, starting with the next major release, 8.0. Along with that, the story talked about AOL's departure from any server platform that isn't linux, and AOL's plans to release a standalone linux client (there aren't any).
This has long been the rumor, and many felt until AOL started using Gecko, it would be hard to get sites to stop using proprietary IE code. This may be the kick in the pants that's needed to help get major sites to allow non-Microsoft browsers access to all of their content.
When AOL first hit the Internet, they took a lot of measures to make themselves responsible net citizens. True, they had a spam problem. They did a lot of good things, though. They created mirrors and did a lot of free hosting that has helped to better the net.
AOL has successfully introduced many untechnical people to the Internet. That is a huge accomplishment.
I like the title of this piece: "AOL Moving to Gecko." That makes it clear that AOL will not just give their users a standard Mozilla release. They will probably not use a standard Netscape release either. I bet they will just build a new embedded product on top of Mozilla, like Netscape or Galeon, and connect that with the AOL client. They might call the browser "Netscape" for advertising, but that's it.
Interestingly, for Windows users, the new AOL Client would have to install a JRE, probably Sun JRE 1.4. This isn't true for the current AOL Client, which uses MS IE and presumably MS's JRE. Sun JRE 1.4 is darn good, and wide availability of it will likely spur some interesting Java development.
If AOL does roll out a new AOL client with IE ripped out, and with a web browser product based on Mozilla, and with a real Java stack, the Internet will get more interesting. Technologies like XML will take new prominence, as that is the premiere markup language supported by Mozilla. Will the web become more interactive? Probably.
As for an AOL Client for Linux, it will likely happen, but not soon. That kind of thing is merely unannounced vaporware at this point. As the Linux desktop begins to slowly crush the Windows monopoly--quite possibly capped in 2004 when Windows XP users learn they have to shell out another $200 to keep using their computers, or in the alternative, just download a Linux distro--more companies will start delivering their proprietary software for use on Linux. AOL will be just one among many such companies.
After Mozilla 1.0 is released, at the same level of 0.9.9 or above, we will all owe AOL a debt of gratitude. That's not something that I considered likely seven years ago. Now, I've come to accept AOL for what they are and appreciate them for it.