Microsoft developers planned "industry-leading" privacy features in Internet Explorer 8 that would have automatically blocked third-party tracking tools like beacons, but one feature was scaled back and another was dropped because they went against the interests of advertisers, the Wall Street Journal reported in its seven-part feature on Internet privacy today.
The privacy features sparked an internal debate in 2008 between revenue-minded executives and developers who wanted to make Internet Explorer 8 better for consumers in order to gain back the market share lost to browsers like Mozilla Firefox, the WSJ reported.
A senior executive in Microsoft's web advertising division became angry when he heard about the privacy features and complained that the plan would disrupt ad sales by Microsoft and other companies, the WSJ said. Microsoft said it weighed considerations like ad revenue for free sites before deciding to scale back the plan.
Microsoft ultimately included one feature, called InPrivate Filtering, but users must enable it every time they open the browser instead of having it activated by default. InPrivate Filtering pinpoints likely tracking tools by blocking any third-party content that turns up on more than 10 visited websites.
Microsoft also dropped another proposed feature, known as InPrivate Subscriptions, that would have automatically blocked Web addresses that appeared on "black lists" compiled by privacy groups, according to the WSJ.
Internet Explorer is used by more than 60 percent of all worldwide users, according to Net Applications, a web analytics company that tracks browser market share. Firefox is in second place with almost 23 percent and Chrome is third with about 7 percent.
All three browsers let users block the bits of text that save information about specific users and can be used to track a user across multiple sites - known as cookies - from being installed. But the settings aren't always easy to find - only one major browser, Apple's Safari, is preset to block all third-party cookies, according to the WSJ story - and users can still be monitored using other types of tracking tools.