The Eolas Wars

May 24 2006

Recently, Microsoft changed the way Flash and anything else that uses <object>, <embed>, or the <applet> method of accessing ActiveX controls. This is a result of the Eolas versus Microsoft patent case regarding the way Microsoft was accessing the ActiveX controls to handle those tags. On February 28th, Microsoft released a patch which changed the way Internet Explorer works with ActiveX.

I paid attention to this case closely. I don’t do the Flash work around here, but I do implement it on many of our sites, so I wanted to be sure we had our bases covered.

Last year, RD2 Best Practices called for the use of the Satay Method for including valid Flash objects in a web site. Unfortunately, using this method triggers the patch and the new “click or hit spacebar for activation” comes up.

In a recent update to our Best Practices, we switched to the use of Unobtrusive Flash Objects, or “UFO”, as our method of implementing Flash.

How exactly does using UFO solve this wonderful problem? Through plain old trickery, my friends.

UFO swaps content through Javascript dynamically. The page has normal searchable text inside of an element with a specific ID. That element is then swapped for the Flash content when the page is loaded. The cool thing is that the text content is still searchable and valid and shows up even if Javascript is turned off. You can have cool Flash content without sacrificing your SEO or site accessibility.

Since UFO works dynamically, it falls under Microsoft’s preferred method for fixing your ActiveX controls, which basically says that any ActiveX controls dynamically written to the screen are automatically activated for user interaction.

No grey borders, no “click or hit spacebar for activation” — just Flash working properly.

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