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MS Gives 60-Day Deadline to Web Devs 375

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the annoyances-and-other-wastes-of-time dept.
capt turnpike writes "Since losing the patent case filed by Eolas, Microsoft has to change radically the way IE works with a lot of content, especially video and other ActiveX controls. eWEEK is reporting that Microsoft has gotten a one-time, 60-day extension in which developers and companies can try to re-engineer their Web pages and ads to work with the new regime. If devs don't make that deadline, users could face pages asking them to activate much of the content, plus ads."
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MS Gives 60-Day Deadline to Web Devs

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  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:30PM (#15020423) Journal
    You mean ActiveX websites will break? . . . And that's a *bad* thing?
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:39PM (#15020518)
      > You mean ActiveX websites will break? . . . And that's a *bad* thing?

      They're going to fucking bury that technology. They have done it before, and they will do it again. They're going to fucking kill ActiveX.

      Microsoft has gotten a one-time, 60-day extension in which developers and companies can try to re-engineer their Web pages and ads to work with the new regime. If devs don't make that deadline, users could face pages asking them to activate much of the content, plus ads.

      And someone, somewhere, will get an ActiveChair flung at them.

    • Re:Good Riddance (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hagrin (896731)
      Unfortunately, this is a very bad thing for me.

      I'm a .Net Developer who just joined a new company where I am in charge of updating and upgrading an existing environmental tracking program. However, all the charting options (over 300) were written with Steema's Tee Chart ActiveX control. Now, I could use their .Net version that they have released to fix an ypotential problems, but I have a demo scheduled for April 15th which I can already forsee is going to be a potential disaster.

      As this is an inter
      • Re:Good Riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sydb (176695) <michael&wd21,co,uk> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:40PM (#15021027)
        Don't get so personal about your work. If the timescales can't be met because of external factors, tell your management. If you need more people on board because of external factors, tell your management. If goalposts need to be moved because of blah blah, blah blah. This is not your problem!
      • by manifoldronin (827401) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:40PM (#15021034)
        but I have a demo scheduled for April 15th which I can already forsee is going to be a potential disaster.
        so you just gave up trying and came to /.? ;-)
      • It's good and bad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zogger (617870) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:00PM (#15021177) Homepage Journal
        Maybe your senior devs and management might want to take a look at GPL code now. This and many other reasons make it attractive, no vendor lock in (don't you think bill gates and MS are rich enough now?), helps to avoid future patent disputes, etc. It's as good as time as any,and you have 60 days, besides the one demo. Avoid future FUBARs like this, or at least minimise the chances. MS has a clear track record of shady deals and monopolistic abusive tendencies. It is their *business model*. Why be associated with people like that? And something to throw at senior management-where is the fat check from MS to pay for all the stuff you have to change because they were thieves and lost in court and people got sucked into using their stolen code? Aren't they the straight suits dream business? Where's this idemnification action?

        The old saying fits, "sleep with the dogs, wake up with fleas"
      • Re:Good Riddance (Score:3, Informative)

        by mkiwi (585287)
        I'm a .Net Developer who just joined a new company where I am in charge of updating and upgrading an existing environmental tracking program. However, all the charting options (over 300) were written with Steema's Tee Chart ActiveX control. Now, I could use their .Net version that they have released to fix an ypotential problems, but I have a demo scheduled for April 15th which I can already forsee is going to be a potential disaster.

        Rule #5 on slashdot:
        Never say you are a .Net or Java developer

        I've see

      • Re:Good Riddance (Score:5, Interesting)

        by john82 (68332) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:11PM (#15021759)
        Understand that I am not laughing at the position Microsoft has put you in, but I find this incredibly ironic.

        Here Microsoft daily flings FUD at the likes of Linux.
            - "Linux|Open Source. You just don't know where it's been."
            - "Sure, we'll indemnify OUR users."
            - Ballmer: "Linux is stealing our IP. We might sue."

        And yet, when push comes to shove who is getting screwed this time? Developers using MICROSOFT's products.
      • Fool me once... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DragonHawk (21256) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @09:19PM (#15022625) Homepage Journal
        While I sympathize with the parent poster's problem, this situation (and the many others like it) is something to keep in mind the name time you face someone who wants to choose Microsoft because:

        • Nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft
        • We need commercial support
        • We need a company standing behind the product


        Microsoft routinely and regularly pulls the rug out from under developers and end-users alike. What amazes me is that people continue to choose Microsoft, no matter how many times they get burned.

        Say the parent undertakes a massive switch to the .Net version, as he describes. Then, in five years, when Microsoft decides .Net is dead and $the_next_big_thing has to replace it, he or his successor will be faced with the same problem all over again.
    • ActiveX (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chas (5144)
      *WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!*

        Not so active now. Are ya' sunshine?

      *KABLAM!*
  • by jimmyhat3939 (931746) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:33PM (#15020453) Homepage
    My guess is that Microsoft actually doesn't mind this one bit. ActiveX was a mistake from the get-go, with its permissions-based scheme which is dramatically more hackable than Java's sandbox-based scheme.

    There are other technologies that can plug the hole. For some applications, an Ajax page could provide the same level of interactivity as ActiveX. For stuff like Flash, they can have a plugin architecture more line Firefox's.

    Bottom line is Microsoft will use this to "encourage" websites to move away from ActiveX and toward their next annoying proprietary technology.

    • by Kaellenn (540133) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:36PM (#15020484) Homepage
      I highly doubt MS is going to shun their own proprietary technology (especially since they've already said it would be present and "enhanced" in IE7 and Vista.

      Wishful thinking; but nothing more I'm afraid.
    • This affects all active (aka "rich) content in IE. Aside from ActiveX, this includes technologies like Flash, Java, etc.
    • by acroyear (5882) <jws-slashdot@javaclientcookbook.net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:34PM (#15021462) Homepage Journal
      this is still an issue until IE7 - in IE 5.5 and 6, XMLHTTPREQUEST is an ActiveX object, not a native JS component.

      if my Ajax code is broken, i'm going to be pissed, 'cause I can't just say "use firefox", much as I would love to.
    • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:26PM (#15022951) Homepage Journal
      Bottom line is Microsoft will use this to "encourage" websites to move away from ActiveX and toward their next annoying proprietary technology.

      Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

      Nobody here seems to acknowledge the true nature of this problem, because it has nothing to do with ActiveX being thrown away. This is simply a warm welcome to the exciting new world of software patents.

      This ActiveX fiasco is a great example. The company holding the patent in dispute, Eolas [eolas.com], is an utter joke. They don't actually make or produce anything except patents. All they do is sit around all day thinking up stuff to patent. That's it. One of these great "products" is a patent dealing with the way embedded interactive multimedia interacts with the user. Part of the patent talks about how the media starts working and interacting. According to the patent, they own the idea behind having it start automatically or in response to page loads.

      The truth is that this patent impacts open source software as well, and even though Microsoft presents a much juicier target than the Mozilla Foundation, they have equally "violated" this patent and OSS will feel the impact soon enough.

      And THAT is what this is about.

      Read this [microsoft.com] and tell me this whole thing doesn't stink like the deepest abyss of Hell. With more and more companies filing patents like nuts, this is the future of software development. Company X is going to spend as much as they did to develop the software just to make sure they don't get sued and have to pull it off the shelves 6 months after shipping. Then there's all the frivolous licensing fees to do stuff like make a Flash animation start when the page loads. How exciting!

      There's nothing inherently wrong with ActiveX. It's based on the COM [wikipedia.org] and is actually pretty nice for developing on Windows. ActiveX is just am implementation of an open standard and provides a way to more closely work with the host system. Firefox extensions are really no better, they can completely bork a system just as easily as ActiveX. In the end, when a user clicks "Install" they may have just signed their own death certificate and it doesn't matter what color the pen was.

      In any case the whole thing boils down to an example of why software patents, in practice, are a terrible thing.
  • So, how does(n't) this all affect Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, and other sorts of browsers? At the technological, legal, and market-share levels?
    • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:42PM (#15020539) Homepage
      If ActiveX is screwed to the point that some heavy engineering is needed to get the websites back into normal operation, some developers might start moving towards open standards that the non-IE browsers support pretty well.
      • As noted elsewhere, ALL browser plug-in architectures are vulnerable (the reason TBL got involved in the first place). IE was just the first target because 1) they didn't license it (actually thumbed their noses at it), and 2) they have the largest market share.

        Mozilla could be hit at any point Eolas feels like it.

        Eolas expected Microsoft to finally roll over and eat it and take out an official license. Microsoft called the bluff, only Eolas is still holding the higher hand right now.
        • As noted elsewhere, ALL browser plug-in architectures are vulnerable (the reason TBL got involved in the first place). IE was just the first target because 1) they didn't license it (actually thumbed their noses at it), and 2) they have the largest market share. Mozilla could be hit at any point Eolas feels like it.

          I have to confess that I find patent-ese virtually unreadable, but from reading the patent document [uspto.gov], I get the impression that every embedded Web-based technology is subject to it. The possib

    • As of 2003 (when Eolas won judgement against M$), Mozilla hadn't attempted to reach any agreement. Their post [mozilla.org] on the subject says to simply keep an eye out and be ready to change if we have to change.

      Wikipedia currently is still saying "Other browsers such as Opera, Mozilla Firefox and Apple's Safari might have to implement a similar change to avoid infringement, or to license Eolas' patent".
    • So, how does(n't) this all affect Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, and other sorts of browsers? At the technological, legal, and market-share levels?

      It probably does, but assuming the shysters at Eolas start threatening Firefox, I'm sure they'll just implement something similar to IE. Oh, and they'll also ship or prominently link to an extension which just happens to automatically detect and activate any EMBED / OBJECT tag content on the page.

  • by gregarican (694358) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:35PM (#15020471) Homepage
    From TFA: However, sources tell eWEEK that the situation could be chaotic when the IE patch ships as an automatic update to users of IE 6 on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003.

    Each page a user visits will require them to click a button to activate the underlying ActiveX control. Wow. BFD. And that is just for those websites that haven't updated their content by June. Chaotic? Far from it.

    • Each page a user visits will require them to click a button to activate the underlying ActiveX control. Wow. BFD. And that is just for those websites that haven't updated their content by June. Chaotic? Far from it.

      This could be a good thing, too, in terms of security. Imagine, having to click on a button before a website runs a script. You know, this might prevent malicious websites from spreading malware through a vulnerability in ActiveX, huh?
    • From the very next paragraph in TFA:

      "Despite what Microsoft says about minimal impact, it makes it much harder to use an application that has a lot of ActiveX or Applets. Each time you load a page with a control, you have to activate it. So if the user goes to PageA with a control and activates it, then goes to PageB with a control and activates that one, if they then go back to PageA again then have to activate it again," said the source, who requested anonymity.
      • Annoying yes. Chaotic no. It's kind of like if someone had their IE security settings to prompt them before running Active Scripting. They would be clicking multiple times per website visit for sure.
        • Chaotic yes. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jaime2 (824950)
          I just got out of a meeting about this. One of the software packages we install and support at work will be heavily impacted. The web version of the application is composed of three ActiveX controls and tends to spawn a lot of new windows for search results. On April 11th, it will cease to work in anything resembling a useable manner. We now have to update about 700 installation seats spread over 500 miles in the next 13 days. Even worse, the vendor won't have a fix until Monday (with 8 days left) and
  • Impact on JavaScript (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cyngus (753668) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:36PM (#15020482)
    Aren't there a good number of JavaScript events that are handled through ActiveX on IE, for example onblur() and onclick()? I hope that I'm wrong or else I've got a lot of JS recoding to do, I hate JS.
    • by cyngus (753668) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:10PM (#15021272)
      I think it is fine. My initial concern came from here [microsoft.com], when I saw the list of DTHML events disabled when ActiveX controls are disabled. I think they are referring to the fact that the ActiveX element itself won't generate these events. Not that these events will be unavailable in general. By the way XMLHttpRequest objects won't be affected by this change, as they are not elements that the user interacts with throught he GUI.
    • by LuxFX (220822)
      I'm not sure about some of the javascript, but there is a whole array of CSS "filters" that use ActiveX. That's how to make PNGs with variable transparency in IE. There are also a lot of DHTML menu builder products out there that use these filters to animate the appearance/disappearance of drop down menus.

      I don't think we're "Y2K"ing this. This will be a huge headache.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:39PM (#15020510) Journal
    The sweet irony of it al
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:39PM (#15020513)
    Users will be forced to click once before punching the monkey.

  • by pe1chl (90186) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:40PM (#15020524)
    They are lucky that there are so many vulnerabilities in IE that they need to release a patch every 1-2 months... without that, users could easily choose not to update.

    Even then, they will have to be very careful. With some coverage in the general media, a lot of users could decide that it is better to diable windows update than to find their applications being crippled because of pointless quarrels in court.
  • Not just ActiveX... (Score:5, Informative)

    by akac (571059) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:42PM (#15020541) Homepage
    For all those .\ users who say "ActiveX good riddance" - yes, EXCEPT that QuickTime, Flash, and all the other IE plugins are guess way - ActiveX plugins.

    So that means every page with any usage of plugins will be broken.
    • For all those .\ users who say "ActiveX good riddance" - yes, EXCEPT that QuickTime, Flash, and all the other IE plugins are guess way - ActiveX plugins.

      So that means every page with any usage of plugins will be broken.

      I guess for this \.user, I mean not only "ActiveX good riddance", but also "Internet Explorer good riddance". If their browser can't display standards-compliant code, most likely due to their shady business practices, then who cares?

      They are saying, change the roads because we found ou

      • by mejesster (813444) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:23PM (#15020886)
        Are you literate? This isn't killing IE, this is a suit based on IP about plugins. Any browser that has plugins would be vulnerable to future suits, including your precious firefox and opera and konqueror and seamonkey or whatever else. It has nothing to do with standards compliance or the quality of that steaming piece of shit browser. And how are their "shady business practices" in any way related? This isn't about monopolies, or media/browser integration, it's a patent case against a specific browser. It's comments like yours that make slashdot so painful to read.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:59PM (#15020680) Homepage
      For all those .\ users who say "ActiveX good riddance" - yes, EXCEPT that QuickTime, Flash, and all the other IE plugins are guess way - ActiveX plugins.

      Wait, we can get rid of ActiveX, Flash and quicktime all in one shot?

      So, umm, what's the downside again?
    • So that means every page with any usage of plugins will be broken.

      No. The pages are not broken. They are properly coded. The browser is broken, and I will not be changing my properly-coded pages to accomodate for Microsoft yet again setting up their software to behave differently than every other browser out there. If anyone complains, my answer will be "use a non-broken browser; they're free and multiplatform. My site properly conforms to standards. If you don't want to download a new browser, just click t
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:42PM (#15020545)
    "Six months from now, there will be no difference to the Internet experience whatsoever," Wallent said, insisting that customers and developers have been very receptive to making the necessary content modifications.

    He's right you know, and it is really too bad...so sad. :(
  • by Illbay (700081) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:47PM (#15020581) Journal
    ...and nobody came?

    Hey, this isn't a "pro-Microsoft" rant, but wouldn't it be just dandy if the courts declared "Heal yourselves!" to the myriad silly and frivolous lawsuitery that is drowning the domestic business environment?

    Of course, you'd have LOTS of poor widdle lawyers out of business.

    But hey, is that REALLY such a bad thing?

  • by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:48PM (#15020582) Homepage Journal
    I thought one of microsoft's main anti-linux FUD points was that if you use M$ technologies that you'll be protected against patent troubles like this...

    wtf happened?
  • by symbolic (11752) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:51PM (#15020605)

    It would include, as part of this re-engineering effort, a dialog that would appear, explaining to the user, why this is happening- pointing out the destructive nature of software patents. The effect is, that since someone else "owns" the ability to do things a certain way, you are required to do it differently, or fork out some cash. If enough people are made aware of just how sofware patents really do have an effect on what they can and cannot do, perhaps this could be the beginning of some grassroots support for much-needed change.
    • Patents are commodities, and patent infringement cases are a business unto themselves. Patent rights can be bought, sold, licensed, collected, litigated, released, etc. And you're suggesting that M$ declare the billions in patent rights it holds to be evil and destructive?

      Y'know, on the off chance that that would work, I'm going to write Bill Gates and explain to him the evil of money. At the end, I'll offer to take all that nasty money off his hands and dispose of it.

      Hey, it could work...
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by szembek (948327) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:52PM (#15020621) Homepage
    Where I'm seeing the biggest potential problem is here: Say a company hired somebody a few years ago to make them a brochure style website, and it had a flash intro, banner, etc. The company is used to seeing their website a certain way. When all of the sudden the website starts making them click 'OK' every time they go to their homepage they're going to get pissed off. They also aren't going to know why it's happening, or care, or switch browsers, or bitch about Eolas being a bullshit company, they are just going to call the person who made the site and have them fix it. I think there are going to be a lot of cases like this. Sure big companies are going to see this coming and change their code, and yes nerds will just use FireFox... but many small non-tech-savvy people with websites are going to be hit by this.
  • by raju1kabir (251972) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:00PM (#15020683) Homepage

    Apple has a helpful page [apple.com] detailing what to do in order to get your pages to continue working as usual with IE.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:00PM (#15020685) Homepage Journal
    Generally, with what I have seen going on I would say they don't in general. On the other hand, patents do encourage people to come up clever alternatives to avoid having to pay money to the patent, that they might have otherwise infinged. Kind of ironic that creativity is not in the patents, but in the avoidence of patents.
  • More details? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashkitty (21637) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:00PM (#15020690) Homepage
    Does anyone have more details on what exactly has to be changed?

    Some people are saying it's going to change everything (flash, movies, some JS, etc) while others say that no one will notice the difference.

    What's the difference, and what do developers have to do for there to be no difference?

  • ...hell...wait a minute, I have to click on *this*?

    It. Is. Just. Bloody. Nonsense. Period.
  • by jwaters (45772) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:02PM (#15020708)
    Most people will be affected by this starting on the next patch Tuesday from Microsoft (April 11th). TFA states:
    "Michael Wallent, general manager of the Microsoft Windows Client Platform, confirmed that the changes will be included in a cumulative IE security update that's on tap to ship on April 11 and said the 60-day extension would apply only to a "small set of customers."

    The eWeek article doesn't do a very good job of highlighting that.

  • by zsazsa (141679) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:06PM (#15020748) Homepage
    Before everybody says "good riddance," note that the upcoming IE update will simply mean you have to click first to enable interaction with the embedded object. This means that things like Flash ads and streaming video will still run automatically -- a user would need to click on them to be able to interact with them, i.e. find the tiny little "mute" or "close" button to make them go away. This page [baekdal.com] previews the update and shows exactly how it will change things.
  • In other news, Amazon has announced it has applied for a technology that will auto-click in a web browser based on configurable trigger patterns.
  • will it be a forced update that you cannot refuse?
  • Microsoft isn't going to magically intercept every HTTP transaction and see if it's somebody requesting an ActiveX control, though. Won't this only affect people who apply the "security" update (actually a "keep MS from getting sued" update) that they're going to roll out? What percent of users apply security updates anyways?

  • by Bloodwine (223097) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:45PM (#15021064)
    There is an optional update at Windows Update that says something to the effect of "This update changes the way Internet Explorer handles ActiveX ... blah blah blah".

    I figure they'll move it from optional to required when the deadline is reached.

    I've already installed the update so I can get my sites ready.

    ActiveX controls cause a little dialog box to appear that makes you hit either "Ok" or "Yes" in order to use an ActiveX control. Honestly this is fairly rare occurance when browsing most sites.

    The big thing that is going to trip people up are flash movies. All flash movies now have a border around them when you mouse over them with a tooltip that says "click to activate and use this control".

    The good news is that non-interactive flash movies work regardless of whether or not you activate the controls. Not sure why that is, but that has been my expeience. The bad news is that flash menus (unfortunately some clients want that junk) no longer work until you click on the flash movie to activate the control. This also goes for interactive flash movies that track mouse movement and whatnot.

    The workaround is to write the flash movie using javascript.

    you can do something simple like document.write() each line of the object tag or use something like UFO (http://osflash.org/ufo [osflash.org]) that is XHTML compliant.
    • The good news is that non-interactive flash movies work regardless of whether or not you activate the controls. Not sure why that is, but that has been my expeience. The bad news is that flash menus (unfortunately some clients want that junk) no longer work until you click on the flash movie to activate the control. This also goes for interactive flash movies that track mouse movement and whatnot.

      Sounds like good news to me! Eh, if that forces stupid web developpers to abandon flash navigation ... it's ev

  • by Ruvim (889012) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:13PM (#15021302)
    I wonder who approved this solution in a first case and whether it would be stricken down by another court? Because form the looks of things, we are still having an object in a page, except now it's generated not from the source code, but from Javascript code. I remember in older Netscape browsers text, generated by "document.write" command used to just show up as a straight source code if you do a "View Source".

    If the reasoning was to exclude object creation from the source code, we still have an OBJECT statement, but it's inside of Javascript now. And court said that it makes the difference? WTF?!!

    So, if I write a code that creates JPEG file, but saves it as a text file, with following renaming .TXT to .JPG, have I just avoided JPEG PATENT? [google.com]

  • In related news, web developers worldwide have given notice to Microsoft to fix Internet Explorer to actually conform to the standards it purports to support. Any web browser that is not fixed in 60 days will no longer work with many web sites.
  • by Timbotronic (717458) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:02PM (#15023158)

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