What is ActiveX?

ActiveX is a set of technologies from Microsoft that enables interactive content for the World Wide Web. Before ActiveX, Web content was static, 2-dimensional text and graphics. With ActiveX, Web sites come alive using multimedia effects, interactive objects, and sophisticated applications that create a user experience comparable to that of high-quality CD-ROM titles. ActiveX provides the glue that ties together a wide assortment of technology building blocks to enable these "active" Web sites.

What Are Its Primary Benefits?

What Are Its Elements?

ActiveX includes both client and server technologies.

What Can It Do?

ActiveX brings innovation and interactivity to the Web. Because it is supported by many different languages and tools, it enables developers with varied backgrounds and expertise to bring their creativity to the Web. Based on a refinement of the existing COM standard already known by thousands of developers, it can leverage the knowledge and work of the development community without a steep learning curve. And because it is a third-generation technology with extensive third-party support, it provides the richest development platform for both Internet and intranet Client/Server applications available today. ActiveX takes the most creative and innovative software development efforts and enables them to work together seamlessly in a Web site. With thousands of these software components already existing, an exciting collection of interactive objects is available for immediate use by Web producers.

Why Is It Important?

ActiveX makes it fast and easy for developers and Web producers to create unique, interactive Web sites that will make the Internet fundamentally more useful and productive. Web producers don't have to start from scratch and build all the parts of their interactive Web site by hand, because there are already more than 1,000 reusable controls available in the market. And because ActiveX can be used with a wide variety of programming languages from dozens of vendors, developers and Webmasters can make use of their current expertise to more quickly create compelling content. They can also accommodate a wide range of users, as ActiveX will be supported on multiple operating system platforms.

How Does It Compare with Java?

ActiveX provides a standard mechanism to extend any programming language, including Java. ActiveX extends the capabilities of the Java language by allowing Java developers to integrate their applets with the richness of ActiveX. ActiveX ties Java applets together with objects created in other languages, so that Java programmers can link to ActiveX controls directly from their Java programs. By the same token, objects written in other programming languages from multiple vendors can link to Java applets. ActiveX is the glue that ties them all together, delivering the most powerful Web technologies in an open, integrated platform. By providing a common way to extend and link programming languages including Java, ActiveX maximizes developers' resources for interactive Web development. See ActiveX and Java for more information on extending Java with ActiveX.

Who Supports It?

Small, medium and large software companies currently create ActiveX controls, including companies such as Borland, Oracle and Sybase/Powersoft. As a result of their work, there are more than 1,000 existing ActiveX controls available for use today by Web producers. In addition, 14 companies who create Web design and development tools have built ActiveX support into their products, allowing their customers to both create and make use of ActiveX controls in their programs. Microsoft's Internet Explorer supports ActiveX, and Microsoft provides the ActiveX plug-in for Netscape® Navigator®, enabling the broadest range of Internet users to view ActiveX-enabled Web pages.

Where Does It Run?

ActiveX is currently supported on the Windows operating system. Microsoft is working with Metrowerks to support ActiveX on the Macintosh platform, and is also working with Bristol and Mainsoft to support it on UNIX platforms. Developers who write ActiveX controls and other ActiveX objects will be able to reach the widest possible user audience with this cross-platform solution.