Microsoft has been forced to U-turn on its decision to block internet users from accessing its MSN website unless it was viewed in Internet Explorer.
The Redmond giant prompted an outcry last Thursday, the day of the Windows XP launch, when users viewing the site in any other browser were greeted by an error message suggesting they upgrade to IE.
A statement issued by the company claimed that version 7 of MSN, also launched Thursday, blocked access from non-Explorer users because other browsers were inferior and would not be able to display the page correctly.
Microsoft has since issued a retraction, saying: "We made an error in blocking customers who wanted access to MSN, and we have corrected that."
The companywas forced to back down after a flood of complaints from disgruntled internet users.
Even the godfather of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), attacked Microsoft's actions. In an interview with Silicon Valley he was quoted as saying: "I have fought since the beginning of the web for its openness: that anyone can read web pages with any software running on any hardware. This is what makes the web itself.
"This is the environment into which so many people have invested so much energy and creativity. When I see any website claim to be only readable using particular hardware or software, I cringe - they are pining for the bad old days when each piece of information needed a different program to access it."
Microsoft's claim that the MSN site also adhered to most W3C standards was also blown out of the water when it was run through the W3C validator, available at W3C.org. It revealed that the site did not meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and also used some invalid code.
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