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Apple ends Safari test program

The Mac maker is terminating a program that gave some developers access to the latest test versions of its Web browser, after the software appeared on the Internet.

Apple Computer has terminated a program that gave some developers access to the latest test versions of its Safari browser, after some testers apparently leaked several prereleases to the public.

The decision followed the appearance on the Internet of a new prerelease known as Safari version 67.

Safari, Apple's first Web browser, is based on open-source software, and the first public test version was introduced at the Macworld trade show in January. Apple is well known for its efforts to keep information about its upcoming products secret and has launched lawsuits over the issue in the past.

Since then, Apple has made a second test version of Safari available to the public. What the company is suspending is a program that provided interim releases to select developers, to gain their feedback before releasing new test versions to the public.

On Saturday, members of Apple's Software Seeding beta, or test, program for Safari received an e-mail from the Mac maker informing them of the decision: "Due to Safari 67 postings to the Internet, we have closed the Safari Seed project. We know that the majority of you are not responsible for the leaks to the Internet, and we sincerely appreciate your feedback, time and effort with this project."

The e-mail was posted on several developer and Mac user Web sites, and several members of the project confirmed that they had received the e-mail. Apple declined to comment.

As part of its Software Seeding program, Apple allows members of its Apple Developer Connection to download prerelease versions of its applications, and other people can also apply to become part of the program.

Both types of testers must sign nondisclosure agreements before they can get access to the test files. "You are legally bound to ensure that only employees covered by your nondisclosure agreement get access to this software," the company states on its Web site devoted to the Seeding program. "Access to this software by any others is illegal and damaging to both Apple and those who develop for Apple platforms."

Mac users said that Safari versions 62, 64 and 67 were leaked. Version 60 was released to the public via Apple's Web site in February.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.