Well, we've been waiting since last July, but it's finally here: the first public beta of Internet Explorer 4.0. As with everything else surrounding this program, the release got off to a rough start this weekend when Microsoft inadvertently made the FTP sites holding the new build (544) accessible to the public for about half an hour. Also, several of the mirror sites (Conexion, etc.) posted the build to their Web sites prematurely, adding to what can only be described as a feeding frenzy. Denizens of the public IE4 newsgroup were excitedly posting 500 messages an hour at one point, advising people where the build could be downloaded. Soon, TUCOWS and other reputable sites (including the Nexus) had both the Windows NT and 95 versions available for download. Tomorrow, Microsoft will finally post the builds to their Web and FTP sites, completing the release cycle. You know, it's as if it were planned that way from the beginning.
"In preparation for the worldwide release of Internet Explorer 4.0, Microsoft distributed code to our partners," said Dave Fester, lead product manager for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. "One of our servers was left open for a short time." This, according to C-Net, is the official excuse for the weird release.
Eventually, there will be two ways to get IE 4: using "Active Setup" or downloading a single, self-extracting executable. Active Setup will let you install IE 4.0 live over the Net (not recommended) or download the files first and then install. The beauty of Active Setup is that it is smart enough to start re-downloading where it left off if you get disconnected. Eventually, this will be the best way to get IE 4.0. Right now, however, the Active Setup download sites are down so this won't be an option for the next day or two.
There are three editions of Internet Explorer 4.0 you will be able to download: Standard, Enhanced, and Full. These editions feature the following components:
- Standard: Internet Explorer 4.0, Microsoft Outlook Express, and ActiveMovie (requires 35 Mb of hard drive space once installed).
- Enhanced: Internet Explorer 4.0, Microsoft Outlook Express, FrontPad, NetShow, and ActiveMovie (requires 40 Mb of hard drive space once installed).
- Full: Internet Explorer 4.0, Microsoft Outlook Express, NetMeeting, FrontPad, NetShow, Microsoft Interactive Music, Microsoft Wallet, and ActiveMovie (requires 50 Mb of hard drive space once installed).
When you install Internet Explorer 4.0, it will overwrite your IE 3.x install. My understanding is that uninstalling IE 4.0 will return you to your previous IE 3.0 build, but the opening window that appears when you install the product told me that it will not uninstall, so you may want to think about this before installing. Posts in the public IE 4 newsgroup suggest the product uninstalls fine. For details on uninstalling, please read this Knowledge Base article.
Also, a final caveat for Windows NT 4.0 users: if you are using the Post Service Pack 2 Hot Fixes, IE 4.0 may uninstall them. To see if this is the case, simply type "hotfix v" at a command line (you should see the word "failed" next to the hot fixes that are no longer active). To "fix" the hot fixes, remove the registry keys that contain them (found in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\HOTFIX) and then reinstall them. All will be well. In any event, most of the people who installed IE 4.0 are quite happy with it. A few problems (no spell checking in Outlook Express, HTML weirdness, etc.) should be fixed in the next release. For now, if you're adventurous and just can't wait, go check it out and expect not to get anything done for a few hours. It's a big, fun program and it will change your entire user interface if you let it. Enjoy!
Also, Microsoft has added numerous new public newsgroups to their msnews.microsoft.com New Server:
I guess they're standing behind this pretty seriously, so if you're having problems, you know where to look for help. Thanks to WinInfo subscriber Tristan Gulyas for first getting me into the weekend feeding frenzy