In response to the ruling in the patent case from Eolas Technologies against Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft has published information for web developers who use ActiveX controls and Java Applets in their website and developers who host the Web Browser OC or MSHTML. As I don’t use Web Browser OC or MSHTML technology, I will only discuss the changes for ActiveX Objects and Java Applets here.
The ruling affects every page that uses ActiveX controls or Java Applets, unless they are dynamically created or don’t reference remote data.
In that case the new or updated Internet Explorer will show a pop-up asking the user if he wants to continue loading the page. Also an extra option in the Advanced section of Internet Options will allow users to select if they want to disable these controls by default.
This leaves the web developer of affected sites with 2 options:
1. Do nothing and loose site visitors as they run away from pop-ups and unrendered content.
2. Create pages that are not affected, meaning either replacing the ActiveX objects and Java applets with alternative content, or having them meeting 1 of the 2 exceptions.
Of course, you should go for number 2:
This might be a good occasion on refreshing your site and removing all the ‘fancy’ and ‘flashy’ stuff with real content that doesn’t scare the users. This might in a lot of cases be a good thing, as sites need updates from time to time and you should try to avoid animations and Flash effects if they don’t add any real value to the user experience.
Again, Microsoft leaves us 2 options:
1. Provide data inline.
2. Create controls in script.
The first one is, technically spoken, the safest, but could again affect the user experience. Internet Explorer determines if an object uses external data. For OBJECT tags with no PARAM this is always the case. But this means that the required object has to be available on the user’s system, either provided by the operating system or installed with software. If the OBJECT tag uses PARAM, you can add an extra attribute to the OBJECT tag, NOEXTERNALDATA, and set its value to “true” resulting in the browser not loading any external data. As an alternative to this, you can provide the data inline, which is no alternative to remote loaded dynamic data. This option is only valuable in controlled user bases, like intranet environments.
Information for Developers about Changes to Internet Explorer
Changes to the Default Handling of ActiveX Controls by Internet Explorer
Handling ActiveX Controls in WebOC and MSHTML Hosting Applications
Test the Pre-Release bits: IE 6 Update v.01
Other companies have also published information and guidelines on how to implement the changes:
– Apple Computer Inc for QuickTime:
Creating the Best User Experience for Active Web Content
Preparing Websites with Active Content for Upcoming Changes to Internet Explorer for Windows
Authoring Websites for Compatibility with Internet Explorer for Windows FAQ
– Macromedia for Flash:
And, as I suggested above, Macromedia is working on a set of tools that will do the transition for you, including command line tools, GUI tools and web server plug-ins. They are developing these tools under Open Source license, so you can change and extend them as you want.
Active Content Developer Center
Preparing Websites with Active Content for Browser Changes
Summary of Solutions to Update Websites with Active Content
Information for Hosting Providers
Active Content FAQ
– RealNetworks: RealAudio and RealVideo:
Internet Explorer Changes
The first user/web developer comments:
Comments vary depending on the mailing list or group you’re reading. But some laugh you in the face when you experience troubles using ActiveX or Java Applets. Wake up “Martin van Dijken”
My opinion, and some others, is that we will see a lot of ‘OK’ boxes pop-up in the near future and that those home-made websites with nifty-nafty effects will loose their visitors in no time, unless they fix their pages (if they can to) or throw away the effects and show us what it’s all about: content.
Quote: “Microsoft expects that new computers and retail purchases of Microsoft Windows XP will have this behavior sometime early next calendar year. Microsoft also expects that new service packs of Windows XP and Internet Explorer will have this behavior starting sometime after that.”