• Josh ZapinJosh Zapin
  • Date:  April 6, 2006
  • Technology

Microsoft Internet Explorer Hotfix 912945 Breaks ActiveX

Microsoft is about to release a HotFix that will break Internet Explorer.

Huh?  If that is true, why is it called a "fix?" 

Because it "fixes" a patent infringement that Microsoft has with a little known company called Eolas, Inc. 

Internet Explorer Hotfix 912945 works around a patent 

Eolas owns a patent that allows objects to be embedded within a web browser (not just Internet Explorer).  For example, if you go to a site that has a little "movie player" on it, the movie player is an object being initiated up by your web browser. 

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer accomplishes this through ActiveX components.  In the movie player example, an ActiveX component wraps your media player allowing the browser and the media player to communicate.

Based on recent judgments (Microsoft has been battling this in the courts for years), Eolas owns the patent around that communication.  In other words, if the browser tells the movie to "play," it’s Eolas’ intellectual property that is doing it.

(Apparently all browsers do this, but Eolas is only going after the 800-pound gorilla in the browser space, Microsoft Internet Explorer.  They’re trying to get some money (actually about $500M worth).)

Internet Explorer Hotfix 912945 affects anything embedded in Internet Explorer

Not a big deal, you say?  Think again!  Media players are just the start.  Other commonly used objects that will be affected by this ruling include:

  • Flash
  • Any Java application
  • Acrobat Reader

Even Microsoft’s own Windows Update, http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/, will be affected by this too!

Degrading the user experience one click at a time

Microsoft Internet Explorer Hotfix 912945 will break this communication and will force users to click on the object to activate it.  Here is a screen shot of what it will look like with a flash movie in a sidebar:


The "fix" forces you to click once to first activate the component then do whatever clicking you need to do with that component.  If you go to another page on the site with the same component, you will go through the same process all over again.  Websites that are Flash based will find this "fix" especially problematic.

While it is only a minor annoyance, it will definitely piss off enough luddites to hopefully make Microsoft cringe.  Then, hopefully, they will make a deal with Eolas and make things work the way they used to.

If not, you can always use Mozilla FireFox.  It won’t be affected by this change at all. 

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