Microsoft unveils new version of Web browser

Dec. 1, 1996


Microsoft's latest browsing software for the World Wide Web, Internet Explorer 3.0, has been around since summer, but only computers using Windows95 could take advantage of it.

Microsoft's support for other computer platforms -- even its own popular Windows 3.1x systems -- has been slow, which isn't surprising given the company's desire to sell more of its new operating systems.

But for users -- like me and nearly 75 percent of the rest of the world's PC users -- running Windows 3.1x, there's been no chance to take advantage of the newly revamped Internet Explorer Web browser.

Finally, that's changed, with the release of Internet Explorer 3.0 beta for Windows 3.1x systems.

First, understand that beta versions may have their own bugs and problems -- that's the downside of ``beta'' software. The upside is the opportunity to test the software, and even offer feedback on it to Microsoft.

If you go to Microsoft's Web site (, you can download the latest version.

In operation, I found IE 3.0 operates very well. I found no bugs in it; it didn't crash, and it displayed Web pages faster in most cases than Netscape Navigator 3.0.

Understand that I'm a dedicated Navigator fan, but IE 3.0 works extremely well; I'll be using it more often and it's a good bet I'll try the final version of the browser, whenever it is released.

IE 3.0 rivals Netscape Navigator 3.0 in features; it displayed Web pages as well as Navigator. In all cases, IE 3.0 seems to show at least part of the Web page earler than Netscape, even when dealing with very graphics-intensive pages.

For those of you worried about hard drive space, you'll be interested to know that Internet Explorer takes up less space than Netscape Navigator.

While I'm still adjusting to the different button layout, the look and feel of the new browser is virtually identical to the 32-bit version used on the Windows95 version of Explorer.

I'll continue to evaluate this new browser, though it will be difficult to dislodge Netscape Navigator 3.0 as my browser of choice. To get your copy, surf to

NEW NET? If you're familiar with the history of the Internet, you are aware of the role the National Science Foundation had in nuturing the Net through its early years of growth.

And realizing that the demand for the Net is going to continue to grow, the NSF is helping create a new high-speed computer network it has dubbed ``Internet Two,'' or more officially, the very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS).

The goal is to create a backbone -- major conduits for data flow -- between at least 30 major sites by early next year. The NSF is well aware of the strain now being put on the current Internet by its explosive growth, and the project's supporters believe the NSF initiative could lead to developments that will benefit the existing Internet.

The results aren't in yet, but the plan will mean gigabites of information will be able to transfer from site to site in less than a second.

To read more about the vBNS, point your Web browser to http://www/

AOL RATE FLAP. America Online's new pricing has created quite a stir -- and a legal challenge from the attorney general of Washington state.

The challenge came after the nation's largest on-line service announced a move to a $19.95 flat-rate unlimited-use subscriber fee, abandoning the long-time practice of by-the-hour usage.

Under the initial plan, all 7 million of AOL's subscribers were to be shifted automatically to the new $19.95 plan on Dec. 1 -- a move that apparently didn't settle well with many users.

In an agreement reached some 10 days ago, AOL agreed to give existing subscribers until March 31 to opt out of the new rate plan.

Despite the log-in announcements on AOL about the new rates, nothing was said about how to avoid automatically being switched to the top user rate.

The new rates should prove popular with longtime users, offering a good deal of flexibility for heavy and light users alike.

RATES VS. INCOME. America Online's new rates have put it on the same playing field with most national Internet Service Providers.

The attraction of AOL is simple -- content, content, content.

But can the online service keep it?

This was the question being batted about at the recent Comdex computer and electronics show in Las Vegas.

AOL's lower rates mean less income; that's simple to calculate. But the income cut also may affect AOL's content providers.

The service's many content providers get a share of the revenues generated by AOL; and with no more than basic math, you can see that lower gross income means less to divide among your content providers.

And if income drops, what will keep content providers from leaving en masse to set up shop on the Web?

The other online services (CompuServe, Prodigy, Microsoft Network) have been in shaky health but are making the move to shift their content to the Web. AOL's continued growth may depend in part to its ability to maintain its unique blend of content providers, as well as its comradiere.

A LITTLE BELT-TIGHTENING. Along with the new rates, America Online has also changed the way it handed out free hours to its many volunteers.

For years, AOL has rewarded its volunteer workers -- those who monitor chat areas and help new members -- with free hours on the service or with complimentary free accounts.

But with the new fee structure, that's all about to change.

AOL volunteers will likely end up paying a reduced fee for access, rather than free hours or a free account.

For more information on what's new at AOL, try their Web site at

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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