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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Details Browser Changes

Moving swiftly to soften potential penalties from a multi-million dollar patent infringement loss, Microsoft plans to release a new version of Internet Explorer (IE) early next year with "modest changes" to the way the browser handles embedded content on Web pages.

The planned IE modifications, which were addressed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), will be released with new computers and retail purchases of Windows XP. New service packs of Windows XP and Internet Explorer will have this behavior starting sometime after that, the software giant announced.

Microsoft also release a test version of the new browser with the changes that spells out the tweaks of IE's ActiveX controls and Java applets.

In a note to developers, Microsoft said the browser's behavior in IE 6 SP1b has changed to prompt the user to determine whether an ActiveX control is loaded or whether to display alternate content. It said all Web pages with ActiveX controls are affected by this change unless the controls are created dynamically from script loaded from another location or the controls do not reference remote data.

The modification effectively means that users visiting Web pages have not been updated will be presented with a dialog box before the ActiveX Control is loaded by the browser.

Microsoft said it would work with industry partners to provide documentation for Web developers that describe how to build Web pages to avoid the dialog box.

It will affect the browser's handling of pages that use the ActiveX controls to embed content, including Microsoft's Windows Media Player, RealNetworks' RealOne, Apple's QuickTime, Adobe's Acrobat, Macromedia's Flash and Java Virtual Machine.

In a statement, Microsoft insisted it would continue its appeal of the ruling that technologies used in IE violate certain patents claimed by Chicago-based Eolas Technology and the University of California. The patent (US Patent 5,838,906) was granted on November 17, 1998 and covers technologies for the creation of a browser system that allowed for the embedding of small interactive programs, such as plug-ins, applets, scriptlets or ActiveX Controls, into online documents.

"Although the described modifications in how Internet Explorer handles ActiveX controls and related content relate to Microsoft's efforts to avoid further potential liability under the asserted U.S. Patent 5,383,906, individuals and companies should consult their own legal counsel to understand any implications for their products in relation to that patent. Users of the WebBrowser OC should enable the new behavior for any Web browsing application," Microsoft declared.

Microsoft was not the only big-name software firm rolling out modifications on the heels of the Eolas patent win.

Macromedia , which markets software for the creation of Flash content, also released details on "straightforward ways" to update Web pages to avoid the dialog box prompt.

In a note to developers, Macromedia announced the launch of a restricted beta the Active Content Update Utilities.

Macromedia's Active Content Update Utilities is a set of tools and utilities that can be used by developers to incorporate the changes necessary to support contend created with its Flash, Shockwave and Authorware products. The utilities will be provided for free under and open-source license.

Apple Computer released instructions for Web developers and authors of QuickTime content (Windows or Mac) to avoid the dialog box interruption when streaming content is displayed.

Seattle-based digital media firm RealNetworks plans to develop an Active Content Update Utility to deal with the IE changes. The company has also posted instructions on how content can be coded to work with the updated IE browser.



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