IE For Linux?

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been the dominant Web browser (almost) since the birth of the Web. It runs on Microsoft’s Windows and on Apple’s Mac, but it has never been officially supported on Linux.

A nascent open source effort called IEs 4 Linux is trying to change that. This week, the group released its latest version of IEs 4 Linux 2.01, which is more stable than its predecessors and fixes some bugs.

IEs 4 Linux creator Sérgio Lopes explained to that the project originally kicked off in May of 2005, motivated by a discussion within the Brazilian Web Design community on how to be a good Web designer while running Linux.

“Before that, I had all three IE versions running on my Linux but never published a How To explaining the install process because I never thought it was so useful,” Lopes said.

“Testing sites on Internet Explorer is essential for Web designers. So I released a small bash script to automate Internet Explorer installation and called it IEs4Linux. Since that, IEs4Linux use has grown exponentially.”

The latest IEs 4 Linux features a simplified installation process for IE 6, 5.5 and 5. IEs 4 Linux also runs in 29 different languages.

The process for getting IEs 4 Linux to run on Linux is relatively straightforward. The user needs to be running Wine (Wine Is Not a [CPU] Emulator, using “Microsoft-free” code).

Wine lets users run Microsoft applications without the need for Windows). Then all that’s needed is to run the ‘ies4linux’ executable (after it has been downloaded).

But is IEs 4 Linux legal?

Lopes said that he has never been contacted by Microsoft or one of its representatives about the project.

“I think IEs 4 Linux is not a problem for them, it is too small,” Lopes said. “I have some legal notices on IEs4Linux website since I released the first version, to advise users to not make anything illegal.”

According to the disclaimer posted on the IEs 4 Linux Web site by Lopes, “IEs 4 Linux is free software, open source, covered by GPL. But IE is proprietary, copyrighted, and you have to accept their license.” He goes on to state that in order to install any Microsoft program included on IEs 4 Linux, the user needs a valid Windows license.

“IEs4Linux will not ask for it and you can run everything without any problem even if you don’t have a license. But it is illegal and a I have not to do with this.” contacted Microsoft for this story, but a spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Since the project launched in 2005, Lopes estimates that there has been between 80,000 and 100,000 downloads. Today, the download average is 600 per day.

Lopes said he hopes to support and run IE 7 (currently at RC 1 , he admits that it won’t be easy.

“IEs4Linux uses Wine to run those IE versions, so we need Wine support for IE7,” Lopes explained. “IE7 supports only XP SP2, and Wine barely support ‘normal’ XP. There is also that [Windows Genuine Advantage] program from Microsoft that can be a barrier.” (WGA is Microsoft’s anti-piracy software scan it runs remotely.)

IEs 4 Linux is free. Lopes said it was never his intention to earn money with the project.

“But I know many companies (some big ones) are using IEs 4 Linux to make money, and many Web developers too,” Lopes noted. “So I ask for spontaneous donations from people that appreciate IEs 4 Linux and think it is valuable to their work.

“I love Open Source and I think that this donation-based model is better than selling my software; this way more people have access to the program and those that think it is good can give me something back with a donation,” Lopes added. “I know I will never be rich but I am happy to see IEs 4 Linux helps lots of people.”

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

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