There's always a first time. Today, for the first time, I am going to say something good about AOHell...

The new version of AIM, Triton, comes with yet-another new Web Browser called, how imaginative, AOL Explorer. It's based on MSIE, I guess nobody is surprised here...

So, yes, it's plagued by MSIE6 bugs and security holes, but I have to say AOL did a quite nice job:

  • the whole UI is a bit too blueish for me, but it's far better than past AOL products. Less bloated, more concise, less "fun" and useless stuff.
  • tabbed browsing is of course here, and it's possible to reorder tabs just by drag and drop. Hovering over a tab shows a thumbnail. I love the "Tear off tab" context menu entry on a tab.
  • there are sidebars, with a vertical tablist of available sidebars on the left hand side of the window. That's quite cool I must say. In Firefox, you have to either use the View menu or know the keyboard shortcut. Well, I'm sure there is an extension adding some sort of tab list somewhere, but AOL Explorer's feature is not very intrusive in terms of UI, simple to use, and useful. Why should it be an extension ?
  • AOL Explorer is able to detect RSS feeds in a page and subscribe to them. There are a few bugs there unfortunately : when you manage you feeds list, the panel is not refreshed. Some blogs feeds are not detected (it could not auto-detect MozillaZine's feed for instance)
  • The Exposé mode is very well done, triggered by the little icon just below the AOL logo on the top-right hand side of the window
  • When you select a tab in the Exposé mode, you can pick up any step in the History Timeline of your tab - and that is very well done...
  • Page Effects will please accessibility lovers
  • Utilities are also cool, but since there's not a single keyboard shortcut for them, I find them rather unusable... Probably just a teaser
  • There are also a little group of totally useless stuff, precisely "just for fun". Right, it's bloat and it should go away. But it shows what the team can do with graphics effects on a page... In that screenshot, everything still works like in a normal browser, application of the filter does not result into a bitmap.
  • It's possible to add your own bookmarklet to that Power Browsing menu !
  • Here's the Settings dialog. Tabs, Popup blocking, Sidebar Manager and Spyware Scan !!!

Again, yes, I know, it's crappy-MSIE inside. AOL made the biggest strategic mistake on earth when they dropped Gecko and Firefox. Too bad the layout engine is a big piece of crap, the Web standards support is lame, the app is not skinnable, the extensibility is close to zero. But the AOL Explorer team deserves some kudos. Their app is, well, a nice browser.

Note to the AOL Explorer team : guys, you have a nice bug somewhere in your c++ code... See the main window's title in this screenshot. It's the title for about:blank, but this string comes from my MSIE browsing history !!!