It's the end of the web as we know it (not)

One of the patches included with this week's updates from Microsoft causes a change in behavior to some web pages. Judging by the commentary, the web must be pretty fragile. Apparently, one click is enough to bring it to its knees.

Earlier this week, Microsoft released a bundle of updates for Windows, including a Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer that fixes several bugs and is classified as Critical. The rollup also includes a change in the behavior of ActiveX, required by court order when Microsoft lost a patent judgment to Eolas last September.

The guy who invented the World Wide Web thinks the patent should be declared invalid, and the case is still winding its way through the appeals process.

Meanwhile, if you installed this week's updates (as I hope you did) the change is now in effect. And if you read news stories about its impact you’ll probably think it’s the end of the web as we know it. Oh, really?

Brian Krebs of the Washington Post calls it “disruptive.” My colleague David Berlind says the Eolas patch will “hobble IE” and give Firefox a big advantage. Gregg Keizer at says this change will “break the browser” and alienate IT pros.

Must be a slow news week. This change means users have to click a browser window or a dialog box one extra time to activate a control before using it. Here’s what the change looks like for an embedded Flash control:



And here’s what it looks like on a page that uses an embedded QuickTime animation:



That’s it. You click once to continue, and then everything is just as before. I tried this on a half-dozen different sites and it didn’t even rise to the level of annoyance. In fact, for Flash/Shockwave animations and embedded QuickTime multimedia (the most likely place where you’ll run into the change), activating the control on one page renders it usable for all other sites as long as you use the same browser window. So that’s actually one click per session, not per page or even per site.

If you use Firefox, this is a non-issue. In a month or two, this will be mostly irrelevant for IE users as well. Web page designers can (and will) recode their pages so that they load properly. Apple and Macromedia will no doubt produce new versions of their ActiveX controls that are activated by default. At which point the problem will go away for any sites using those controls.

One click. That’s enough to disrupt, hobble, and break the web as we know it?

Like I said, slow news week.