Is IE 10 Going to Kill ActiveX? (No, but…)

In a development with potentially far-reaching consequences for Korea’s internet, this post on the Building Windows blog announced that the Metro-style browser on Internet Explorer 10, part of Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 OS, will be entirely free of plug-ins.

Besides spelling an end to support for Flash-based content, this also means that ActiveX — the archaic and roundly loathed plug-in still widely used in Korea to facilitate online payments — will not function on the newest form of the browser!

Dean Hachamovitch, head of the IE team, wrote:

For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free. The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web.

Running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers. Plug-ins were important early on in the web’s history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI.

Unfortunately, it’s a little too early to start dancing on ActiveX’s grave just yet.

Though Windows 8-powered mobile devices — ie, a possibly very small crop of tablet PCs — will only come with the Metro UI, the OS will continue to offer the option of an older format on desktops and PCs.

From Hachamovitch:

On Windows 8, consumer sites and “line of business” applications that require legacy ActiveX controls will continue to run in the desktop browser, and people can tap “Use Desktop View” in Metro style IE for these sites. For what these sites do, the power of HTML5 makes more sense, especially in Windows 8 apps.

Given how much online content in Korea still runs using Flash, not to mention the ubiquity of ActiveX, the prospect of a plug-in-free IE world must be a profoundly worrying one for Korean companies and developers. However, the writing is clearly on the wall for relics such as ActiveX, and the sooner it can be eliminated from Korea’s internet, the better, surely, for everyone.

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