In November 2005, the next version, 1.1, was released. Version 1.2 was very similar to version 1.1, but included two new features: Tab Explorer and RSS Widgets from Favorites. When the Tab Explorer button is pressed, a thumbnail preview of each tab is displayed in a full-screen window. The user can click on one of the previews to instantly access the page. Microsoft has implemented a similar feature in their Internet Explorer 7 browser, called "Quick Tabs".
Version 1.5 was launched in May 2006, and included many new features such as Desktop Widgets, Visual Themes, a Feeds Screensaver and various performance improvements. Desktop Widgets allow the user to "tear off" a side panel and use it independently from the browser. The panel will remain open and functional, even after one closes AOL Explorer. When ones computer is idle, one can set the AOL Explorer Feeds Screensaver to display the RSS feeds stored in the feeds panel. Another feature new to 1.5 is the Show Page Preview feature, which allows the user to preview a webpage without leaving the current page by simply holding down Ctrl and right-clicking on a link. This feature is especially useful when there are a large amount of links on a page, or when searching.
In 2003, AOL signed a seven-year contract with Microsoft to use Internet Explorer layout engine in their products and as such AOL Explorer uses this engine. Because of this, users can use AOL Explorer to download and install updates from Microsoft Update. However, unlike Internet Explorer, AOL does not use Bing as the default search engine. AOL is also the owner of Netscape Communications Corporation which had previously published the now defunct Netscape series of browsers.
Currently, AOL Explorer is available as an independent download or packaged with AIM Triton. When the browser starts up for the first time, it asks whether or not you would like to use it as the default browser and encourages users to display AIM Today content, if installed with AIM. Both of these are optional and can be denied.
AOL Explorer 1.5 was the last recorded version of AOL Explorer. The browser, even though it can still be downloaded, is no longer in development in favor of AOL OpenRide, which in turn was succeeded by AOL Desktop.
AOL Explorer received a 4 out of 5 from PC Magazine in 2005, saying: "Even Firefox devotees should consider taking AOL's spiffy, feature-packed browser for a spin." Although it was also criticized in the same article, with the following 'cons' given: "Questionable anti-spyware tools. Some features not yet working. Can't import favorites from Mozilla Firefox or Opera. Doesn't support Internet Explorer toolbars."