Public beta of IE7 is close

Windows XP users may get the chance to try out the new features in IE7 early next year

Microsoft is planning to make a beta of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP available to the general public within the next four months.

Dean Hachomovitch, general manager of Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, said in a posting on Microsoft's IE blog this week that his team will post an updated pre-release build of IE7 for Windows XP publicly before the end of March 2006.

"We want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to try a pre-release version of IE7 and tell us how it works with their Web sites, their applications, their add-ons, and how they use the Web overall," said Hachomovitch.

At present, only Microsoft staff and specifically chosen beta testers can get their hands on the latest pre-release version.

The first beta of IE7 was launched in July. It is expected to include several changes, including tighter security and tabbed browsing.

A later blog posting outlined how Microsoft is changing the way Internet Explorer handles 'security zones'. These zones are used to set security levels depending on the perceived trustworthiness of a Web site. Microsoft is concerned that these zones can be abused by malicious hackers if they can trick IE into treating a dangerous site as if it were trustworthy.

"We realised that the intranet zone — and its lower restrictions — is not relevant at all to the typical home user running IE. One of our interns this summer, Robert Liao, changed IE’s logic so that a Windows machine that is not on a managed corporate network will treat apparent Intranet sites as Internet. This change effectively removes the attack surface of the intranet zone for home PC use," said Microsoft.