Microsoft unveils new version of Web browser
By JIM BROOKS
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 (http://www.microsoft.com/),
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
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 http://www.microsoft.com/.
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
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
To read more about the vBNS, point your Web browser to http://www/vbns.net/.
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
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
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