Net pranksters fool with Explorer

The April Fool's spirit spreads to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, and even Microsofties get in on the act.

Internet Explorer fans got a double dose of April foolery today.

A Swiss Web site run by the International Data Group, PC Tip, caused a sensation today by posting what appeared to be a "special preview" version of Internet Explorer 4.0 for users to download.

Meanwhile, Microsoft spoofed its own Internet Explorer Web site with a page that proclaimed the fictitious arrival of "Internet Explorer 9.0."

To regular visitors to Microsoft's site, the Internet Explorer page should have been a fairly obvious April Fool's prank. However, PC Tip caused a minor sensation among Explorer fans, many of whom posted excited email to Usenet discussion groups providing links to the Swiss site.

Today, it was impossible for CNET and Microsoft officials to verify whether the program posted to the PC Tip site was actually Explorer 4.0. The site appeared to be overloaded with traffic, perhaps by a crush of users trying to download the software.

One user posted a message on Usenet saying that the program on PC Tip's site was actually Internet Explorer 3.02.

PC Tip editor's could not be reached for comment, but a German-language message on their site suggests an April Fools prank.

"Upon request by PC Tip's editorial office, we succeeded in obtaining a special preview version of IE 4.0," reads the message. "The only condition on our part is that we make this special preview available for 24 hours only. Here is your chance to "get a whiff" of the next browser generation."

On Microsoft's Explorer spoof page, the company displayed its humorous side, even poking fun at Explorer's recent security glitches.

"A group of resourceful college students has discovered a security hole in Internet Snorer that allows them to access the hard drives of faculty members," the page read. "After the students spread word of the bug at a well-attended mixer in Boston, grade point averages at college campuses across the city jumped by 1.86 points in a single day."

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