RealTime IT News

Internet Explorer 6 Beta to be Released This Quarter

Though the public beta of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 6.0 was not released to the Web Wednesday as some rumors had suggested, a beta version will be made available to the public this quarter, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

The rumors were a result of notes -- supposedly originating inside Microsoft -- posted to the ActiveWin.com Web site for Windows enthusiasts. The notes, which describe alleged features of the upcoming release, said the public preview had an expected RTW (release to Web) date of Feb. 28. The notes were posted to ActiveWin by Robert Stein, president of Active Network Inc., which owns the ActiveWin site.

"I believe that the information is accurate," Stein told InternetNews.com Wednesday. "We traced back the file from the sender to a tide***.microsoft.com webserver,which employees' Internet connections in Redmond are sent from."

Stein noted that the RTW date was incorrect, but said the notes were dated Feb. 14 and the release date could have been pushed back. Microsoft neither denied nor confirmed the validity of the notes, saying only that the RTW was not valid.

Microsoft has already released a technical preview to a small group of testers who signed non-disclosure agreements last fall. Windows XP beta testers are also taking a look at the new version of the browser. The public beta of IE 6.0 will be released at the same time as Windows XP beta 2 sometime this quarter.

According to the notes, the browser will not be available for all Microsoft's operating systems. As expected, the notes said the IE 6.0 preview won't run on Windows 95. Microsoft has said that it will no longer support that operating system. Typical and full installs will not be immediately available for Windows 2000. IE 6.0 will install a minimal set of files onto a 2000 system, including the IE 6 browser, scripting support and Outlook Express 6. A Windows NT 4.0 install will be available, but requires Service Pack 6a. Full installs will be available for Windows 98 and ME, according to the notes. The Windows XP beta already integrates the new browser.

According to the alleged notes, some of the new features of the browser include:

  • New Explorer bars -- existing Explorer bars include Search, Favorites and History; IE 6 will add a Media bar, Contacts bar, Search the Web bar, News bar, Personal bar, and the ability to add new HTML-based Explorer bars created by Microsoft or third-party developers
  • Support for Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) standards -- IE 6 includes a new Privacy tab on Internet Options which allows the user to set the level of privacy desired by specifying whether Web hosts may collect client information through cookies; IE 6 utilizes P3P 1.0
  • Virus Protection in Outlook Express 6 -- the new option prevents applications that could potentially be a virus from being saved or opened
  • General tab -- a Delete Cookies button has been added to the General tab of Internet options.

In a related note, some rumors have suggested that Microsoft has been debating phasing out the IE browser -- which according to WebSideStory's InStat research firm now holds more than 87 percent of the worldwide browser market -- making the MSN Explorer the default consumer browser and the browser in the upcoming Netdocs platform into the default business browser.

A Microsoft spokesperson laid that rumor to rest. She said IE will continue to be distributed as it has been in the past, noting that MSN Explorer is geared towards Web newbies while Internet Explorer is targeted at more experienced Internet users.