Web developers get a respite on IE changes

Special patch will temporarily undo browser changes Microsoft is making to defend against Eolas patent claims.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
2 min read
Microsoft plans to release a special "compatibility patch" that will temporarily undo some upcoming changes to Internet Explorer.

The patch will accompany the next security update for IE, scheduled for release on April 11, Microsoft said Wednesday. It reverses changes the update makes to how the Web browser handles Web programs called ActiveX controls. These ActiveX tweaks can impact how certain sites display in the browser, the company said.

The ActiveX modifications are designed to shield Microsoft from liability in a high-profile patent dispute with Eolas Technologies and the University of California.

The patch should give Web developers more time to make adjustments that take the IE changes into account. The software maker has recommended that programmers tweak their pages to accommodate the ActiveX change, or else their viewers will have to click an extra time to get to some content, such as Macromedia Flash animations.

Microsoft had said it didn't expect the IE modifications to have much impact on customer experience or partner applications. Yet on Wednesday, the Redmond, Wash., software giant acknowledged that some Web developers are not yet ready to deal with them.

"We did get feedback from some (software) partners and from some enterprise customers that they need a little more time to test and update their applications," Mike Nash, the executive who heads Microsoft's security business, wrote in a posting to a corporate blog.

The compatibility patch is specifically designed for businesses that may have homegrown applications that use ActiveX, a company representative said. It will function until June, when Microsoft plans to release another IE security update that makes the changes permanent, the representative added.

Microsoft has already given developers some time to prepare for the changes. The company announced the tweaks in December, and a month later made them available on MSDN, its closed online network for developers. In late February, the modified software was made available to the general public as an optional download.

The ActiveX changes are scheduled for delivery on Microsoft's regular patch day on April 11. It may ship sooner if Microsoft rushes other fixes out for a serious security flaw in the browser that is being exploited to attack users of IE 5 and IE 6.

Microsoft expects a second trial in the Eolas case to start sometime this year. A federal appeals court last March partially reversed a lower-court decision that exposed the company to more than $500 million in damages.