Internet Explorer ActiveX behaviour change coming. Surprised?
Back in February of this year, Microsoft announced that, as the result of a court-case loss, they would be issuing a download that changes the behaviour of Internet Explorer.
The behaviour change is briefly described by saying that most ActiveX controls will need to be clicked on to "activate" them before you can interact with them (pressing buttons, typing, drawing, that kind of thing).
Many people are scared of this change - mostly people who haven't tried it; it's not a huge effect.
The 'surprise' to many is that the behaviour will be hitting the Automatic Updates round on or before April 11 of this year (next Patch Tuesday). Some are even going so far as to state that this is because Microsoft wants users to be irritated en masse, so that the judge in the patent dispute will rule more in Microsoft's favour, or the plaintiff will reduce the amount for which they are willing to settle. [My personal take is that Microsoft isn't going to pay potentially unnecessary damages until the case has run its course and they have reached a final outcome.]
Me, I think it's kind of obvious that this change has to happen. Here's my reasoning:
- As many in the press have noticed, it's a relatively common thing to have an update to Internet Explorer in the security updates for any month.
- All Internet Explorer security patches to date have been cumulative - that is, they include all of the previous security patches.
- If Microsoft's patent dispute is like any other similar case (the Sun JVM dispute, for instance), they are allowed to continue to host existing downloads, but must not create new downloads or distributions that contain infringing code.
- The chance that a previous patch includes no infringing code is pretty close to zero (how many security patches involve embedded objects? Quite a number, I'd guess)
So, all told, I think we were lucky not to have had this behaviour pushed in the security patches in March, and we should have expected it (and tested it with our users for usability and compatibility) for some time now.
In case we're about to lose context, remember that what we're talking about is a patent on placing an active object into a browser window (when Microsoft was already using Object Linking and Embedding to do this in other apps) without having to click on the object to make it active. For this <sarcasm>stunning and insightful leap of innovation</sarcasm>, the plaintiffs are looking for over half a billion dollars in damages. Even taking into account Microsoft's legendarily deep pockets, and their historic penchant for "borrowing" other people's ideas without giving them credit, I have a real trouble seeing the plaintiffs' side of the story.