RANCHO SANTA FE, CALIFORNIA, APRIL 1 -- The 39 men and women found dead after an apparent mass suicide were evidently web developers who were despondent about the delayed release of Microsoft Corporation's Internet Explorer 4.0 web browser. The victims were all members of a web design firm called "Higher Source Contract Enterprises."
The San Diego County Sheriff's department confirmed the finding of a suicide note located in the Windows "Recycle Bin" of one of the servers used by the group. In the note, one of the Higher Source employees was quoted as saying "We can't take the wait anymore" and "life is just unbearable without IE 4.0."
A Microsoft employee who asked not to be named confirmed that approximately 2,751 requests had been received from Higher Source members to join the beta testing program for the Internet Explorer software, but that these requests had gone unanswered. "The betareq people are overloaded with requests," he said. "We're still trying to finish fulfilling kits for the Windows 95 Preview Program."
At least two of Higher Source's clients admitted that Higher Source representatives had promised them web sites built using Internet Explorer 4.0. One client said that he had been promised a "Dynamic HTML web site with CDF push channels" by April 1, 1997. Authorities have speculated that it was this impending deadline, along with the inability to obtain the required software, that might have prompted the group to rash action.
Crime scene photos show that at least some members of Higher Source attempted to switch to Netscape Corporation technology at the last minute. In some of the photographs, open manuals for Netscape's "Constellation" beta software can be seen with handwritten notes in the margin such as "THIS DOESN'T WORK!!!!" and "NOT CSS COMPLIANT!!!!" "Higher Source believed a rumor posted on Usenet that IE 4.0 Platform Preview was available on a rogue FTP site located behind the Hale-Bopp comet," said a spokesperson for the Sheriff's department. "They believed they needed to become 'one' with the comet in order to download Internet Explorer."
Forensic pathologists have speculated that the web design group's nearly exclusive diet of Pop Tarts, pizza, and Jolt cola was a contributory factor in the group psychosis.
The InterNIC registry, run by Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Virginia has confirmed that there are currently no Internet sites registered on or behind the Hale-Bopp comet, while admitting to a 27-month backlog of domain name requests.
Officials at Microsoft Corporation could not be reached for comment.
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