Project Driveway will be available for public beta testing in February, said David Gang, vice president of product marketing. The project will allow users to receive news and information, technology similar to that developed by PointCast.
Gang said he expects Driveway to be fully implemented in the spring. Later versions will allow users to also download information from AOL areas as well as from newsgroups and message boards. But this version only allows them to download news, weather, sports, and Web sites.
Driveway also lets users download email, something they have been able to do for years on AOL, using "flash sessions."
"If you really enjoy cyberspace and you don't have time to be online, then this is a product designed for that purpose," Gang said.
The product also could free up AOL's crowded network, but Gang said Driveway development began long before AOL's current overcrowding problems began. The project was first reported in Inter@ctive Week this week.
Members have been having trouble getting online ever since AOL implemented its all-you-can-eat pricing earlier this month. They also have complained of lost connections. Gang acknowledged that users have been plagued by busy signals and added that AOL has had problems with chat, but he denied that there are other major network problems.
In fact, he said, "for the most part, the system has behaved better since we've gone unlimited."
AOL is currently beefing up its network to accommodate increases in usage as well as new members; the network should improve by February. By June, there should be no detectable problems, he said.
Driveway, though, was not developed to alleviate the network but rather to allow users more flexibility, Gang said.