Eolas v Microsoft and FlashObject (continued)

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Posted at 10:48 on 20 April 2006

Microsoft caused a furore earlier this month when they rolled out the update to Internet Explorer on the eleventh of April to implement some changes to the browser behaviour in the light of their legal defeat by Eolas. Not only was this earlier than anticipated (their court imposed deadline is the middle of June) but they also bundled it in with the latest round of security updates. Anyone who has updated Windows, either automatically or manually through Windows Update, will be affected.

The update does not result in any loss of functionality. ActiveX controls such as Flash animations, embedded Windows Media players and Java applets will still play as normal, but they will ignore all user interaction until you click on them to “activate” them.

If your Flash animation or embedded media player is merely cosmetic, you may not need to take any further action. However, if it has some interactive functionality such as navigation, less knowledgeable users may get confused and think that your site is broken. Rollovers will not work until the animation is activated, for instance.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I have been using FlashObject to work round this issue. It is fairly easy to implement this with only a few lines of code. You can wrap your <object> tags in an HTML container tag such as <div>, <span> or <p>, and add just a couple of lines of extra code to load in the object:

<script language="javascript" src="/path/to/flashobject.js"></script>
<div id="myFlashContainer">
  <object width="400" height="200" clsid=blah blah blah blah blah...>
    <!-- and so on... -->
<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript">
  var fo = new FlashObject("/path/to/flash/animation.swf",
        "myFlashObject", "400", "200", "7", "#ffffff");

The script works by swapping out the Flash animation within the container, which does not automatically get activated, for a new, dynamically loaded, <object>, which, does, due to a loophole in the Eolas patent. The parameters are: the path to the Flash object; a unique ID which is assigned to the created <object> tag; the width; the height; the version of Flash which is required to view the animation; and the background colour.

Geoff Stearns gives fuller instructions and details about FlashObject on his website.

Open source browsers such as Firefox are not affected at this stage. Eolas founder Mike Doyle has stated that he intends to license the technology free of charge to open source projects, but what exactly comes out in the wash in that department remains to be seen.