One of the horrors remaining from the browser wars of the late 90s is Microsoft’s “ActiveX” technology. ActiveX, not DirectX, although maybe the latter needs to die too.
ActiveX in browsers is based on the idea that your computer should be able to download and execute completely random binary images from the Internet without your permission. What a great basic architecture, huh? It was created because Microsoft’s implementations of COM and OLE technologies were so unnecessarily complex and fundamentally user-hostile that nobody sane wanted to use them. Microsoft needed an alternative, one that could be integrated with the web, since they wanted to crush Netscape and take over the Internet. Browser technology was critically important to them and ActiveX was a way to prevent the creation of a level browser playing field based on shared standards.
To give a more generous interpretation of the same events, Microsoft was faced with a desire to provide a richer web experience to their customers and an inability to deliver their vision using existing web standards. ActiveX was an early attempt to work around the inadequacy of HTML, and while it had many issues (security being a big one, and lack of support for non-Intel platforms another) Microsoft has worked continuously and diligently to remediate those issues and support current and former users of their products.
Personally I’m completely happy with either of those interpretations of the events surrounding the birth of ActiveX. Who cares? Those bodies are all buried now… or at least they should be.. NO WAIT. ActiveX is still stinking up the room!
If you use ActiveX in your websites, or allow your browser to execute ActiveX controls, you are part of the problem. Please, I’m begging you, for the love of God, stop it! Just let this hideous thing die, will you?
There’s nothing that ActiveX provides that can’t be provided using current web standards and technologies. You don’t have to keep hurting yourself, and your readership. Just stop already.
Whenever you purchase any software with a web server in it, or sign up for any service that has a web interface, you need to routinely insist that the product you are buying must be useable with any browser, not merely Microsoft Internet Explorer with ActiveX enabled running on 32-bit Microsoft Windows on a x86 chipset. Make the seller put that in writing, so you don’t get stuck supporting ActiveX against your own will. It’s a shame you have to do this – you don’t have to specify in writing that there will be no incontinent rabid monkeys in the back seat when you purchase a car – but it’s necessary. ActiveX must be destroyed.