It’s not exactly a major advance in web browser client technology, but the release of Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 today is a move closer to the release version, scheduled for sometime later this year. What’s changed from the Beta 2 release? Er, good question, and one that had me straining my eyes to determine that you can drag the page tabs around and have an e-mail button on the toolbar if you so desire. There are enhancements to the RSS support, enabling the update of all feeds automatically and empowering more control over marking feeds as read. But again, it is hardly earth shattering stuff.

Under the surface a bit more is happening, such as the fixing of a number of layout rendering bugs which should help with site compatibility. Then there is the fact that all the June 13th security fixes that relate to IE 7 from the MS06-021 patch have been rolled into the Beta.

Do not expect any new security tools or features though. There is no sign of the protected mode that is evident in the Windows Vista Beta IE 7+ version. This is a shame as these user account controls enable you to build a sandbox around the browser environment for additional security, helping to prevent malware from dropping code onto the hard drive by only allowing files to be written to the IE 7+ cache for example.

Do not expect any further Beta releases of IE 7, at least not any that come with the official Beta label. There will, however, be a Release Candidate 1 version by September, and probably a Release Candidate 2 before the final version is set free.

Do not expect installation of Beta 3 to be a walk in the park either, unless that walk involved uninstalling previous IE 7 Beta software first, a time consuming process. Oh, and you have to go through all that Microsoft Genuine Windows verification nonsense as well.

And don’t expect to be able to play with the Vista Beta if you haven’t already downloaded it, as Microsoft is taking its ball back as from today. The public Beta officially ends at midnight on June 30th, or at least the opportunity to download the code ends then as it is being withdrawn from the website.

I’m not sure who is more confused by all of this, me or Microsoft…

And if you were thinking of a good reason why you should bother upgrading to IE 7 Beta anything, then how about the small fact that unlike IE 6 it is not troubled by the new cross-site scripting issue revealed by SANS yesterday. Not that it, or the HTA application handling vulnerability which exploits a SMB/WebDAV weakness, is actually 'out there' in as far as they come under the heading of proof of concept rather than real world danger.

For now.

That said, better safe than sorry so perhaps the IE 7 Beta 3 update isn't such a waste of time after all. Unless you already use a safer browser client such as Firefox or a safer OS platform such as OS X of course :)

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