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Microsoft--looking beyond IE 7

It may be keeping mum on the release date of its upcoming Web browser update, but Microsoft has already started thinking of the next version, and the next.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft has plans to roll out more updates of its Web browser, according to a developer on the Internet Explorer team, even as its latest version is yet to be officially released.

"IE is back…we're going to do another release, and that's going to be [a] regular [feature]," said Sean Lyndersay, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) lead program manager for RSS, at Remix, a Microsoft event held here Thursday. He added that the team at Microsoft has already started thinking about what IE 7's successor will look like, and how long it would take to build it.

For now, Microsoft is on track to release IE 7 this year, its first since the previous version of the Web browser was unveiled in August 2001.

According to Lyndersay, beta 3 of the new browser will be launched Friday midnight local time, and will contain some additional features and "many fixes" for bugs in the second beta.

The latest version, he added, will not defer from the final release of the browser in terms of how Web pages are rendered or read. The message for developers, he explained, is that "that is what your page is going to look like when we start shipping IE 7."

Although Lyndersay did not specify the exact date of the launch, other than saying it will be in the second half of the year, he noted that a release "candidate version" would be due "in the next couple of months". This, Lyndersay told ZDNet Asia, will provide a last opportunity for comments that is unlikely to result in any "major" changes to the final product release.

"When we get to the RC (release candidate), we're essentially saying we think it's ready to be released; we just want that final bit of feedback," he added.

During a developer session at Remix, Lyndersay gave a demo of the IE 7 beta which shows a less cluttered version that offers tabbed browsing, and the ability to create a suite of homepages.

Tabbed browsing, however, is currently available in IE 6 through Microsoft's MSN toolbar. The feature also has been available in rival browsers including Apple Computer's Safari, Firefox and Opera, which recently launched its newest version of the browser.

According to Lyndersay, IE 7 will have built-in RSS support which can be customized such that it reflects only new feeds.

Security is also high on IE 7's agenda, he said, noting that "it's no secret IE 6 has had a number of issues with security".

To help "ensure there are no holes in IE", he added that there are security features such as recognition for high-assurance certificates in Web sites and security default settings for internationalized domain names, which can detect illegitimate sites even if the URLs contain different character sets.

There will also be antiphishing support, Lyndersay said, which uses heuristics to warn users of suspicious sites.

In addition, a setting--turned off by default--will be made available for users to check the legitimacy of Web sites against a list of known phishing sites, maintained at Microsoft's server. These checks will be carried out concurrently as users download the page. If the site is found to be suspicious, users will see a warning note with options for them to close the page, continue or report the site.