The new browser, version 8.0, is available as a free download on the Web site of Netscape's parent company, America Online. The upgraded browser is designed to display pages in either a Firefox mode or an Internet Explorer mode--allowing users to take advantage of the security of Firefox, and to switch back to Internet Explorer if they have browser compatibility problems.
The browser also has a new approach to security online, using a "black list" of phishing, scamming, and spyware sites. When users visit those sites, the browser automatically upgrades the security settings. AOL also maintains a "white list" of companies that have their sites certified as legitimate by VeriSign, an Internet security company.
AOL's investment in creating a new browser and offering it for free is likely aimed at monetizing content through search, said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "Why take the time and investment to release another browser, particularly with so much hype around Firefox?" Wilcox asked. "The answer is search. There is an opportunity for companies to monetize their browser."
The browser incorporates a toolbar system, with pre-made and customizable toolbars that users can add to their browser window. "The toolbars lead you to content that AOL makes some money from, either through paid search or affiliate marketing," Wilcox said.
In addition to the security features, the browser also features tabbed browsing; integrated search from a set of providers including AskJeeves, Google, and Netscape; and an embedded RSS reader.