Microsoft has begun sending out invitations to a private technical beta test for the next major release of Internet Explorer, according to an e-mail invitation that leaked out online.
While the invitation-only private beta will be just that – private – and will be focused on developers, members of the IE team said in the purloined e-mail that a full-scale beta test is not far off.
"We are nearing the launch of Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 and we will be making it available for the general public to download and test," the e-mail said.
The invitation first surfaced when at least two Windows enthusiast sites published it online. The e-mail includes a link to a Microsoft Connect site, but apparently only works for invitees to the private beta.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the e-mail is authentic but declined to provide any further particulars.
"We are beginning to invite testers into the IE8 TechBeta program [and] we will also be opening IE8 Beta 1 to the public in the future, but have no more information on that at this time," the spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed to
The most recent released version is IE7, which shipped in October 2006. By comparison, the previous major release was IE6, which was delivered in August 2001. When it released IE7, the company said it would not let IE languish again as it did with the five-year wait for IE6.
Recently, Microsoft has begun sporadically talking about IE8 but has given few details about the upcoming version of the company's flagship browser other than promising that it will feature significantly improved support for Web standards.
Microsoft has promised to give attendees at Microsoft's MIX08 Web developers and designers conference being held in Las Vegas next week a "sneak peek" at IE8. No date has been given for final release of the update.