Apple ends Safari beta-test programme after leaks

The Mac maker is terminating a scheme that allowed access to pre-release versions of its Web browser after the secret software appeared on the Internet

Apple has terminated a beta-testing programme for its Safari browser, after some testers apparently leaked several pre-release Safari versions to the public.

The decision followed the appearance on the Internet of a new pre-release version of Safari, known as Safari 67. The move means that Apple will not have access to feedback about its upcoming browser by users and developers, but will be better able to keep information about Safari leaking to the public.

Safari, Apple's first Web browser, is based on open-source software and a test version was first introduced at the Macworld trade show in January. Apple is well known for its efforts to keep information about its upcoming products secret, and has launched lawsuits over the issue in the past.

On Saturday, members of Apple's "Software Seeding" programme for Safari received an email from Apple informing them of the decision: "Due to Safari 67 postings to the Internet, we have closed the Safari Seed project. We know that the majority of you are not responsible for the leaks to the Internet, and we sincerely appreciate your feedback, time and effort with this project."

The email was posted on several developers' and Mac users' Web sites, and several members of the project confirmed that they had received the email. Apple declined to comment.

Apple has released some test versions of Safari as public downloads, but more frequent updates are reserved for beta testers only. As part of its Software Seeding programme, Apple allows members of its Apple Developer Connection to download pre-release versions of its applications, and users can also apply to become part of the programme.

Both types of testers must sign nondisclosure agreements before they can get access to the beta-test files. "You are legally bound to ensure that only employees covered by your nondisclosure agreement get access to this software," the company states on its Web site devoted to the Seeding programme. "Access to this software by any others is illegal and damaging to both Apple and those who develop for Apple platforms."

Users said that Safari versions 62, 64 and 67 were leaked. Version 60 was released to the public via Apple's Web site in February.

Some users said they had a hard time understanding why Apple felt it needed to keep Safari development shrouded in secrecy.

"I am used to getting the latest updates for Linux software via CVS... I can deal with bugs," an anonymous user wrote on a Mac discussion site. "Apple, you need to speed things up. You have a voracious audience who really wants updates as soon as possible. Just put a disclaimer on the releases that they are unstable. We won't hold you responsible."

CVS, or the Concurrent Versions System, is a popular tool used by open-source developers to collaborate on software projects.

Safari's Web page rendering engine is based on KHTML and KJS, two outgrowths of the KDE development project, and Apple shares its improvements to the software with the development community. However, the browser is not itself covered by an open-source licence.


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