ActiveX Armageddon

A lot of people probably forgot, but a while back Microsoft lost a patent infringement suit to Eolas Technologies who had some patent governing the inclusion of multimedia assets in web pages. As a result of the suit, Microsoft has to change the way Internet Explorer handles multimedia content embedded in the page using <embed/>, <applet/>, and <object/>. The change would require users to first “activate” a control on the page before using it, requiring an extra click.

Microsoft has a published a whitepaper detailing the changes that developers should look out for. Apparently, only user interaction is affected. If, for example, you are using a Flash XMLSocket via JavaScript, this won’t be interrupted. But if you were loading a Quicktime movie, the user will first have to click on the control to activate before he or she can use the play, stop, rewind, and other buttons.

This update to Internet Explorer is supposed to roll out early in April, so when you start seeing your multimedia content behaving strangely, this is why!


  1. BenB


    Actually it has already been out and has been accessible as a non-high priority updates. If you view the update page you will see:

    Update for Windows XP (KB912945)
    This update includes minor changes to how Internet Explorer handles some web pages that use Microsoft ActiveX controls. Certain webpages will require users to manually activate Active X controls by clicking on it or using the TAB key and ENTER key. This update contains all previously released security updates. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.

    Also, as a developer, to bypass said behavior you simply have to do a dynamic include into the code - such as a create/append Element into the DOM. This will keep the issue from happening.

    The update you speak of actually removes the feature from machines that already have dowloaded the above update until some later date.


  2. Nicholas C. Zakas

    Ben, yes, it has been available for a while, but now Microsoft is going to be forcing it through a critical patch. There will be a 60-day period during which developers can still use IE without this update, but after that, everyone will get the patch whether they want to or not.

  3. Aaron

    not related to the article at hand but to your book, Prof. Javascript...I just got it and its great. Thanks

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