AOL UK is “delighted” with its progress on beta-testing a Mac OS X-friendly AOL browser.

Company spokeswoman Joss Cole told Macworld: “Beta testing is going really well. All the feedback has been extremely positive. There’s a feeling that people are extremely pleased with the look-&-feel of AOL for Mac OS X for the UK."

One beta tester remarked: “This looks like the best version of AOL I have seen. Are Windows users now the underdog?” Another observes: “The layout is nice and easy to use.”

Cole confirmed that the browser being tested exploits the Netscape/Gecko rendering engine, adding weight to reports that AOL is set to abandon Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser for the application. “It’s still in early developmental stages,” she said.

AOL is now part of the AOL/Time Warner group, which owns Netscape and has extensive interests in the open-source Gecko rendering engine.

Development resumed The company suspended development of its Mac OS X client in November 2001, explaining that it could not justify the development expense at that time. It changed its mind as it watched the mass-migration to Mac OS X taking place among Macintosh users.

AOL UK’s chief communications officer, Matt Peacock, discussed the features being introduced in the new build – which offers complete support for OS X’s Aqua user interface.

“It’s a completely different build – it even differs from the US build, with brand new functions built-in. The email and instant-messaging features have been completely rebuilt. There’s a new address book, and an entirely new look-&-feel. We’ve completely redesigned the Welcome screen,” he said.

Beta testers for this project have been drawn from AOL’s existing Macintosh user base. The final version is likely to be released later this year.