Microsoft Preps IE 5 Launch But Pulls Beta

Microsoft this week set mid-March as the formal launch date of Internet Explorer 5.0, but also pulled the previously available beta version of the browser from its site to comply with a court order. The removal of the beta upset some developers, who were using the early version to build websites and products making use of IE 5.0's advanced features, including wide XML support. IE 5.0 will officially launch March 18. The court order involves a suit filed by Colorado-based greetings-card manufacturer Blue Mountain Arts. The case involves new junk-mail filtering technology in the upcoming version of Outlook Express 5, which is part of the IE 5.0 release. A California state court on Feb. 2 issued a preliminary injunction preventing Microsoft from distributing the technology.

The technology will be removed for the formal launch of IE 5.0, but Microsoft was unable to pull the technology quickly enough from the beta, and was forced to remove the browser/e-mail client completely from its site. "The Internet Explorer 5.0 and Internet tools beta program has ended, and we would like to thank the millions of customers who offered their feedback. The program ended, in part, because of a court decision," says a note on the Microsoft IE 5.0 website.

It's highly unusual for a browser vendor like Microsoft or Netscape to remove beta versions of their products before final shipping versions are released. UserLand Software head -- and DaveNet publisher -- Dave Winer noticed the missing beta when a developer his company was working with was suddenly unable to find the IE 5.0 download page. UserLand is developing Web content-management products that depend on IE 5.0's XML capabilities.

"I bet there are hundreds of other developers who will be hurt by this unfortunate situation," Winer wrote earlier this week. Microsoft said it will continue to fight the Blue Mountain Arts suit all the way to trial. Microsoft this week began taking preorders for IE 5.0, which it plans to simultaneously release -- a first for its browser debuts -- on Windows 98, 95, NT, 3.1, plus Sun Solaris and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX.


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