AOL, MSN Offer Few Innovations

If you're a regular eWeek reader, you're probably not a user of the AOL or MSN browsers.

If youre a regular eWeek reader, youre probably not a user of the AOL or MSN browsers. However, there is also a good chance that you support users of these services, whether at home or in the office.

If this is the case, youre probably aware that America Online and Microsoft released new versions of their services—namely, AOL 8.0 and MSN 8. Heres my take on the new versions.

Both services are clearly targeted toward the novice user. Each tends to do a lot of handholding for setup and features such as e-mail and messaging. Each has increased its ability to manage multiple user accounts, and each has boosted its parental control options.

The new AOL looks a lot like the old version, although I did like the little AOL Companion utility that provided alerts and information updates. In addition, AOL has much larger and more active community options than MSN offers.

MSN 8 has added easy-to-use and surprisingly effective spam- and mail-filtering capabilities, along with improved security options. Any Windows XP user will feel right at home with the interface, which is extremely customizable.

On the negative side, AOL 8.0 is by far the more annoying of the two services. Every time I logged in, I was presented with another ad for a new service—and I could see where some novice users would have a hard time getting around the ads.

In addition, although MSN 8 provides an easy-to-use interface for e-mail, messaging and Web browsing, as a service, it doesnt offer much that users cant get already on the Web.

Currently, both services provide clients for only Windows operating systems, although AOL has Mac OS clients for previous versions. AOL is priced at $23.90 per month for a standard dial-up plan and $14.95 per month for users who have an Internet connection.

MSN is priced at $21.95 per month for dial-up and $9.95 per month for users with an Internet connection installed.

Users in some areas may also be able to purchase broadband packages of AOL or MSN.