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Microsoft Internet Explorer ActiveX Update May Break Internet Applications

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If you use the Internet Explorer browser, and in fact, even if you just use Microsoft Windows, your favorite websites, business applications, and toolbars could stop working beginning April 11th when a non-security update is installed. Then again, Microsoft has announced a two-month reprieve because no one paid attention and they need more time.

The story behind this significant change dates back to 2004 when Microsoft lost a lawsuit to Eolas Technologies, who holds the patent for Microsoft provided a technical guide on using external Javascript references to invoke the embedded content, which is not covered by the patent. There is one problem even with this approach, however. According to the details for the ActiveX Update, KB912945:

External script technique does not work when the “Disable Script Debugging (Internet Explorer)” check box is cleared

All is not lost — yet. Microsoft will be simultaneously releasing a Compatibility Update that will reset the ActiveX handling changes to their original mode for another two months.

Although most Internet sites have already prepared for the changes in the way that Internet Explorer handles some ActiveX controls, some enterprise customers have given feedback that more time is needed to ensure that corporate line-of-business applications are compatible with this change to Internet Explorer.

To help enterprise customers who need more time to prepare for the update, Microsoft will be releasing a Compatibility Patch. This Compatibility Patch will be available the same day as the next Internet Explorer Security Update. As soon as it is deployed, the Compatibility Patch will temporarily return Internet Explorer to the previous functionality for handling ActiveX controls. This Compatibility Patch will function until an Internet Explorer update is released as part of the June update cycle, at which time the changes to the way Internet Explorer handles ActiveX controls will be permanent.

The real solution, and perhaps a long overdue one, is to make Flash, QuickTime, ActiveX, and embedded object handling as integral functions of the browser, thereby negating the need to embed objects and avoiding the patent, but that plays into concerns over bundling, compatibility and complexity. At this point, this will be nothing less than a retrograde step for the Internet. Poorly handled, it could be a mini-Y2K.

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  • you say “most Internet sites have already prepared for the changes in the way that Internet Explorer handles some ActiveX” i am not sure what internet you have been surfing but i would say that at least 90% of the sites that i have been visiting have not changed their site so i do not need to double click (constantly) to get flash and quicktime movies to work. Everyone from espn to disney to even heavy.com (which is a 100% flash site) do not have work arounds in place, thus turning the single click world of the internet into a double click world.