Microsoft Corp. this week temporarily halted downloads of Internet Explorer 5.5 and a companion set of Internet tools from its Web site, before again making the software available this afternoon.
The software vendor declined to comment on the reasons for the move beyond a short statement that said: "The bits are simply being updated." A Microsoft spokeswoman said she couldn't elaborate on what the bits in question were or whether the downloads were halted in the wake of customer complaints about the software.
She did add, though, that the unavailability of IE 5.5 had nothing to do with the denial-of-service attack that hit Microsoft's Web sites yesterday and rendered many of them inaccessible. That in turn followed an earlier Web site outage that began late Tuesday and was blamed by Microsoft on a faulty configuration change to its Domain Name System (DNS) routers.
Downloads of IE 5.5 Service Pack 1 appear to have been stopped on Wednesday, which was the last day when the Web page that lets users install the software was updated prior to today's restoration of the browser at about 3:30 p.m. EST. The message about the halt, which has since been replaced, said only that IE 5.5 was "temporarily unavailable."
Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. at Stamford, Conn., said Microsoft's actions almost certainly must have been prompted by complaints about the software from users. "There had to have been a significant number of bugs reported for them to pull it rather than fix it with [another] service pack," he said.
Software bugs and Microsoft are hardly strangers, but MacDonald said users have proven to be relatively tolerant about that relationship. "Microsoft's business model is based on . . . getting products out quickly, and with that you're going to get software bugs," he said. "[But] people haven't voted for better security or better products with their pocketbooks."