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AOL Puts Brakes on Unauthorized 6.0 Distribution

America Online, Inc. Friday stopped the unauthorized review of its 6.0 software programming from a pair of free speech Web sites.

Due to legal pressure from America Online Inc., both Kenton Industries and Open AOL have halted the release of information and analysis of the next version of the online giant's client software.

America Online (AOL) will begin to alpha test its 6.0 release in February. At that time, AOL employees can download the new America Online 6.0 software.

Anne Bentley, AOL spokesperson, said the documents posted on the Web site were internal confidential correspondence never meant for public scrutiny.

"The documents posted were internal communication," Bentley said. "It is the confidential review of 6.0 and the property of AOL. Its completely unacceptable to us."

The internal papers describe new features in AOL may add to its 6.0 release that further enhance the 5.0 upgrade. Bentley said it's likely that the features will change as the software is developed.

"It's a very long time between now and the time when it will be released to the public," Bentley said. "We're constantly fine-tuning the product."

Kenton.org received a three-page letter from AOL legal representatives demanding it take down the unreleased 6.0 materials, or face legal action. During the evening of Jan. 26, Kenton.org was victimized by a denial of service attack from an undisclosed company.

Although AOL would not say how the confidential files were obtained, Bentley did confirm that an AOL employee did not leak the information and that server security has been increased.

Kenton Industries founder, known only as "Kent" said he received a facsimile from AOL Jan. 27 demanding that he take down the 6.0 materials or face possible legal action.

The AOL statement warned, "prerelease of 6.0 materials that you have posted wholesale on your site are AOL's internal confidential property. These materials are not available to the public.

"You can only have obtained them from someone who breached their employment agreement with AOL or from someone, who illegally hacked into AOL's system," continued.

Both Kenton.org and OpenAOL promptly pulled the materials from Web distribution.

AOL employees will be able to download 6.0 on Feb. 1, while commercial testing begins in May. AOL maintains a team of more than 100,000 beta testers to shore up their next software upgrade. The product is scheduled for public release in August, just in time for another holiday sales surge.

The new service promises cosmetic adjustments to the toolbar, although preliminary tests indicate that consumers think the 6.0 toolbar is poorly organized, according to Kenton.org.

To support AOL's marketing strategy promoting its "PC Anywhere" access, its 6.0 software is reported to make it easier for newcomers to use AOL's instant messaging and e-mail services.

Industry analysts expect AOL's 6.0 software will change as the client is developed for its official release. While AOL played up the release of its 5.0 software three months ago, most users found little variation from its 4.0 release. The minor upgrade did not prohibit 8 millions users from downloading the new software.

AOL added features including "You've Got Pictures," an improved search function and broadband applications in its 5.0 release. While AOL promoted the software upgrade, some analysts said the changes were minor when compared to previous upgrades and the release was more or less a tactical marketing scheme to make the most of seasonal sales increases.

Bentley said that 8 million AOL members have downloaded the 5.0 relase during the first three months it was made available to the