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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