Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 6 to download, although the Microsoft New Zealand site does not have a local mirror.
IE 6 includes a media toolbar that allows users to play music or movies without opening a new browser window, presumably in Windows Media Player format.
Privacy and security are also top of Microsoft's mind with IE6 - the new browser gives users "tools to protect your privacy and allows you to control the personal information websites collect about you" according to the site's feature list.
IE 6 supports P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences), a standard being developed by the industry group W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), that has attracted growing industry support. A key feature of P3P is its ability to identify which websites collect cookies, and allow users to steer clear of sites that don't meet their criteria for privacy. Cookies are small files distributed by some sites that "tag" a browser when it visits a site. They can be used to track a user's activity on the web.
Websites that support P3P can publish their privacy policies in XML tags that are attached to the cookies they distribute. IE 6 will allow users to set their browsers in such a way that accepts or rejects those cookies, depending on the level of privacy offered by the site.
IE6 weighs in at a hefty 25MB in size - although the site warns this could vary depending on what upgrades are needed to existing software to make it work, ranging from 11MB to 75MB. Free browser Opera, on the other hand, weighs in at 2.5MB without full Java support - around 10MB with it. IE6 has been slammed for not including a Java virtual machine (JVM) in its final beta version - both IE6 and new operating system Windows XP (due for release in October) will ship without a JVM activated even though previous versions of both did.
IE6 will also ship without Smart Tags, as it had previously planned. Microsoft nixed the technology, which creates links to websites and other content from within the browser, after beta testers and some critics protested that Smart Tags allowed Microsoft to steer users towards its own web properties.