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IE 5 to ditch Active Channels bar

Microsoft plans to eliminate the bar that serves as a gateway into its Active Channels in the next version of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft (MSFT) plans to eliminate the bar that serves as one gateway into its Active Channels when it rolls out the next version of its Internet Explorer browser.

This information came to light during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today dubbed "Market Power and Structural Change in the Software Industry." Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates and several foes of the software giant were panelists at the hearing.

It also came out just a few days after the software giant agreed to drop some of the requirements it imposes on U.S. Internet service providers in its cross-promotional licensing deals. (See related story)

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), in questioning Gates about requirements Microsoft places on content providers listed on the Active Channels bar, said she understood that the Active Channels bar would no longer be a feature on the upcoming IE 5.0. She based that remark on a conversation she had with Gates yesterday.

Gates did not comment on that statement during the hearing.

But a source at Microsoft familiar with the issue confirmed the company's plans to drop the channel bar.

"It's not a popular or successful feature," the source said in explaining the reasoning behind the decision.

But Dave Fester, group product manager for Internet Explorer, said there are multiple ways to access the channels today without clicking a mouse on a channel button.

He declined, however, to comment on the future use of the bar in the next IE version.

"We're continuing to work to improve the product, but it's too early to talk about it," he said. "We are not abandoning push content. We're absolutely committed to our Active Channel content and will continue to work with our channel partners."

"Active Channels" was one of the more notable and touted features on IE 4.0. The channels allow users to automatically receive information deliveries from content providers such as Disney and Time Warner.

Microsoft had launched the Active Channels as it faced competition from Netscape Communications, which included a "push" feature in its browser.