Internet Explorer 7 Beta Goes Gold

Along with the release of Beta 1 of Windows Vista, Microsoft quietly released the first beta of Internet Explorer 7 for Vista and Windows XP SP2. According to Microsoft, IE 7 will be made "available to IT administrators, developers and enthusiasts for testing and evaluation through the Technical Beta Program and MSDN."

Microsoft created a stir in February when it announced that IE7 would only be made available to XP SP2 users, but it had acknowledged that its browser had become a security risk.

"Why? Because we listened to customers, analysts, and business partners. We heard a clear message: 'Yes, XP SP2 makes the situation better. We want more, sooner. We want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment,'" wrote IE team head Dean Hachamovitch in the IE Web log on February 15.

Key among the new features in the next version of IE is tabbed browsing, which has been a popular feature of upstart browser Firefox. Microsoft added support for the feature into Internet Explorer 6 through its MSN Toolbar application in early June.

Also new in IE7 Beta 1 is a toolbar search box that would not only allow searching from MSN Search as within previous versions of Internet Explorer, but also AOL Search, Ask Jeeves, Google, and Yahoo! Search as well.

IE 7 users will gain support for RSS feeds within the browser, a feature that will allow users to subscribe to Web logs and personalized information services to have them delivered within the browser interface.

Microsoft said that Beta 2 of the browser would build on security enhancements with anti-phishing measures similar to what is already available in AOL's Netscape 8 browser. Also, a "protected mode" will be added allowing for browsing of the Web but prevent the modification of user settings or data.

While users would have to upgrade to Vista for the full set of new features, "many of these new browser features will also be available to users of Windows XP through Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2," Microsoft said.

The company would not say when it expects to issue a final or public release of IE7, which is currently restricted to testers and TechNet subscribers.

"Our timeline is driven by the quality of the browser. When we feel the product has effectively incorporated the customer feedback we receive, we will release the final version," a company spokesperson told BetaNews. "At this point we do not have a specific date to share."

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