Microsoft to fix glitch blocking browsers from MSN.com

Microsoft Corp. is working to fix a technical glitch that blocked a number of browsers made by rival software makers from accessing the MSN.com portal throughout Thursday.

Microsoft revamped its MSN.com hub Thursday in conjunction with the release of the Windows XP operating system. The company added a new look to its portal, which along with the new OS will play a central role in its .Net architecture for delivering Web services.

Users surfing the Web with browsers other than Internet Explorer, however, found it difficult to access Microsoft's services on MSN.com because the company had not provided support for a variety of competing browsers. The latest versions of Opera Software A/S's Opera browser, the Mozilla browser, and the HotJava browser displayed an error message when users went to MSN.com. Some older versions of the Netscape browser also failed to reach the Web site , but Netscape versions 4.7 and later were able to reach it.

Users trying to access MSN.com with the Opera, Mozilla and HotJava browsers received the following message:

"Attention: Web Browser Upgrade Required to View MSN.com. If you are seeing this page, we have detected that the browser that you are using will not render MSN.com correctly. Additionally, you'll see the most advanced functionality of MSN.com only with the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer. If you wish to visit MSN.com, please select the appropriate download link below."

Microsoft is working to fix the problem and should provide access to all of the browsers by the end of Thursday, an MSN representative said.

The company said the problem occurs when using a browser that does not support XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), a standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Even users of Microsoft's own Internet Explorer need version 4.0 or later to reach MSN.com at this time, the representative said late Thursday.

"The more closely that Opera and Mozilla support the latest standards for XHTML the better experience customers will receive." the representative said. " This issue will impact less than 2 percent of MSN.com customers."

However, Microsoft said that although Mozilla and Opera users will be able to access the site in the future, they will continue to have a "degraded experience" because the browsers do not support XHTML. Users may see different colors or page rendering when they go to MSN.com.

Microsoft continues to face legal action due partly to the tight union between its operating system and Internet browser. The company's main competitor in the browser market is AOL Time Warner Inc., which owns Netscape's browser. The two companies are also battling in the Web services arena.

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Ashlee Vance

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