AOL Time Warner has ditched Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) for the latest version of its CompuServe browser, opting instead for Netscape as its default browser.
The move comes after months of speculation that AOL was preparing to drop IE in its signature service around the world.
Given the size of AOL's subscriber base such a move could rekindle the browser war between Netscape and Microsoft.
CompuServe, AOL's other online service, previously used IE as its default browser, and AOL itself continues to use it.
In CompuServe 7.0, AOL has opted for the Netscape Gecko embedded browser engine, which was developed in an open environment through mozilla.org by Netscape and others.
"Gecko is a good product and we have taken the opportunity to put it in CompuServe 7.0 to let users get a look at the latest version," said AOL spokesman Josh Danson.
The company has already started testing Gecko in beta versions of its next AOL release, but stressed that no decision over its inclusion has yet been reached.
AOL has around 34 million subscribers around the world. Its current web browser, AOL 7.0, is slated to be replaced in the autumn.
CompuServe has around three million subscribers that could provide the perfect test bed for a new Netscape deployment for AOL.
"It's no secret that that we are testing Gecko in the latest beta version of AOL, but it is not definite by any means that AOL will use Gecko," said Danson.
CompuServe first started testing Gecko about a year ago. AOL's contract with Microsoft to use IE expired in January 2001, but it has continued using the browser under residual rights.
According to analysts, embracing the idea of Gecko may signal a way to improve the terms for any future contract between AOL and Microsoft.
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