WWW FAQs: What is ActiveX?

2004-08-17: ActiveX is Microsoft's technology for signing plug-ins that add additional software to your computer when a web page is accessed. If all goes well, you will be asked whether you want to trust a plug-in from that particular company and you will have the option of saying no. In principle, this is a useful way to allow the installation of worthwhile add-ons, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Macromedia Flash Player and RealPlayer. However, if you do not run Windows Update regularly, all will not go well -- there have been security flaws in Internet Explorer in the past that have resulted in software being able to install itself without permission.

If you do not have a specific, clear reason to want and trust the software you are being asked to install -- that is, if it is not the Macromedia Flash Player or the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader or something similarly crucial that you really need -- SAY NO! Many nasty pieces of awful spyware are properly signed and will ask permission to install, knowing that some people will naively give it. You do NOT, for instance, want to say yes to installing things like "WeatherBug" or "MemoryMeter," among many others. For more information about removing such programs you may have installed by mistake, see why is my web browser broken?

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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