Click to Activate my Control?

If it is an active control (like a Flash menu, for instance) you must click the control to “approve” it before the Flash navigation buttons will work. Get ready for a storm over the “Click to activate and use this control”

Microsoft this week delivered a long-awaited update for Internet Explorer 6 that changes the way the browser loads embedded ActiveX controls.

Flash is one of many components affected, other major ActiveX controls include:

The modification comes as part of an ongoing patent dispute with Eolas Technology and the University of California.

Background information regarding the ActiveX issue

In August 2003, a federal court ruled that Microsoft had infringed on a patent related to plug-in technology used in Internet Explorer.

Eolas was awarded $521 million in damages, which has ballooned to $560 million due to interest.

In response, Microsoft said it would alter how the browser implemented ActiveX, but later backed away from the switch. Software affected by the patent would include Macromedia Flash, QuickTime, RealOne Player, Acrobat Reader, Sun’s Java Virtual Machine, and Windows Media Player among other applications that embed into Web pages.

But following two legal setbacks in its efforts to invalidate the Eolas patent and have the ruling appealed, Microsoft said in December it would go ahead with the update.

“Plug-ins” include objects like Flash movies and Java Applets, as well as any other components that use the EMBED, APPLET, or OBJECT HTML tags.

With the update, ActiveX controls will no longer be activated by default. The change in IE forces users to first click on the control before it will recognize any input.

As you might imagine this would be a nightmare for the users, forcing them to approve content like Flash or java applets prior to having them interact properly in the browser window.

The update is currently available as an optional download from the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update. Microsoft said it expects the majority of IE users to download the patch as part of their security updates over the next four to six months.

What to do about it

Let’s face it.  As website owners we do not want to inconvenience our users.  The key to avoiding this is to add the flash or other media as a page “enhancement” rather than hard-coding it into the page.

In XHTML, this is recommended practice, and something I started doing long before the whole patent issue came into play.

If your site is displaying this behavior, I’ll be happy to fix it for you or advise you on the best way to do it.  Send an email to with the subject line “FIX MY FLASH”.

About Joseph R. B. Taylor

is a designer/developer who makes stuff for screens of all shapes and sizes. He currently works at Edvisors, Inc. where he creates screen-based experiences for used by millions of college students every year.

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