The web browser built into America Online's software is proprietary
and ancient. Both the Macintosh and PC versions of the AOL web
browser were purchased from outside companies, and both are barely
usable. In addition, due to the structure of the AOL network,
transfers are always extremely slow, and graphics are often
For the PC version, AOL bought a browser from BookLink that was
arguably as good as Netscape 1.0, which was the standard at the
time. However, AOL developed it only as necessary while Netscape
continually enhanced its Navigator product. These advances in the
HTML standard left AOL in the dust.
In America Online 3.0, AOL finally supports HTML 3.2, including such
features as tables and frames. However, AOL's browser still omits
many commonly used tags, and does not support animated images --
tremendously diminishing the Web experience.
AOL, when developing its Web software, decided that it made more
sense to keep copies of all web pages that AOL members received on
its own computers.That way, instead of letting each member get a
fresh copy from the sending site every time it was viewed, it could
simply be sent from the "proxy" machine. This helped keep AOL's
already-sluggish Internet connection fromgrinding to a halt.
However, the fact remains that there aren't enough proxy machines to
go around, forcing users to wait interminably while the proxy
machine gets around to helping them. Also, these machines are
frequently out of service, resulting in a lot of difficulty in
connecting to Web sites. It is nearly impossible to load a
graphics-heavy Web page without some of the images being replaced
with error icons.
In addition, the AOL proxy machines convert Internet-standard GIF
and JPEG graphics into AOL's Johnson-Grace compressed image format.
AOL calls this "TurboWeb" and claims that it makes AOL web
connections 3 times as fast as those from an ISP. This is an
outright lie; instead of speeding the process up, the compression
slows down the proxy machines yet more, making the whole
process incredibly slow. Also, the image technology doesn't work
well, often corrupting images by introducing bizarre color shifts or
The AOL Web browser is simply not an adequate offering, especially
when most members use AOL to access the Internet. With an ISP, users
can choose the software they prefer quickly and easily, while on AOL
using anything but the built-in browser is trouble-prone and