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October 08, 2003

Microsoft IE Beta with Eolas fix

Shell FragmentsMonday Microsoft released a range of press and developer information regarding the patent situation with Eolas. To sum it all up–they are moving forward with changing IE to meet the Eolas ruling while they continue to try and get the decision overturned. They have been working with Macromedia, Apple and others to change the way ActiveX based plug-ins (which includes most of the IE plug-ins anyways) work. A beta version of IE6 with the ActiveX change has been posted for software and web developers to use for testing. Essentially it is an implementation of what they proposed in August–interrupting the smooth loading of a plug-in and the rendering of content with a dialog box for each and every instance of an ActiveX (or plug-in) control in a page. There will naturally be a user preference setting to block all notifications, which will also block any plug-in, rendering alternate content in it’s place. So that part will be like alternate image text or a lot like Firebird or Mozilla if you add the XBL binding Flash Click-To-View. They offer other options for developers to implement but they are either complex and not accessible, or simple but not standards based. Like that matters to Microsoft anyways.

The smart-a—- in me says (again) “finally no more pulsing scrolling flash banners, un-forseen multi-page ads being printed, and funky navigation menus; it’ll force all sites to use alternate content formats to ensure everyone can use the site.”

The reality, however, is this will severely impede user experience, and there are a number of sites that necessarily rely on Flash, Director, Quicktime, Real Player and PDF plug-ins to let their site work at all. This solution from Microsoft et. al. may be the best solution–short of Eolas donating the patent to the public domain now that they have made $520,000,000.00 from it–but for users of a lot of sites this will be a return to the days of multiple pop-up ads, only you have to let them keep coming and you have to click on them to continue. Someone will come out with a windows system tray application that will automatically look for the pop-up window and click the ok button. It’s a fairly trivial program, but you see, it violates several patents, and since the pop-up box (with it’s alert message) is copyrighted by Microsoft, this future Eolas pop-up killer (patent pending) could potentially be in violation of the DMCA too.

Update: See SideSh0w and Zeldman for more information on the fallout from this.

Posted by Eric at October 8, 2003 05:11 AM | TrackBack
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