I told myself I’d never mention the name again on this site, but it’s come to this. Microsoft has (temporarily?) caved on the Eolas patent dispute, and issued a warning to web developers everywhere: the Internet Explorer plugin architecture is going to get an unwelcome downgrade, and you need to change your pages now to avoid causing user experience problems down the road. You’ve got two months.
Who’s affected? Well, do you use the
<object> element? Then, potentially, you are. Sites that embed PDF, Flash, QuickTime, Windows Media, or RealPlayer files will all get hit by this.
What happens? The page loads, but the controls are disabled by default. In order to activate them, the user must click on them first.
Bad for advertisers? Yep. Bad for CMS/eCommerce vendors that rely on ActiveX controls? Yep. Bad for media sites? You bet. Bad for Adobe? Of course.
Really, there’s no good side here. Except that you’ve got two months to fix your sites. Like you didn’t have anything better to do anyway. Enjoy.
(Ethan Marcotte has some history and technical details about this issue from 2003, if you need to play catch-up.)
(And I should be clear: this is Microsoft’s response to litigation brought on by an opportunistic third party, it’s not an arbitrary decision on their part to make your life worse.)