Microsoft and Netscape Respond to The ActiveX Dilemma

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 05:51:37 -0700

> Microsoft has led in providing a solution, with ActiveX and Authenticod=
> code signing in Internet Explorer 3.0. We have since released IE 3.01=20
> with additional security support. And we are participating in the W3C=20
> meeting on Oct 27th with JavaSoft, Netscape, IBM, and others to=20
> converge on an industry-wide code-signing architecture.=20
> -- John Ludwig, vice president of Microsoft's Internet platform and
tools division.

Microsoft and Netscape Respond to The ActiveX Dilemma

Jesse Berst, Editorial Director
ZD Net AnchorDesk
Wednesday, October 23, 1996

Isn't the Internet amazing? I asked what you wanted Netscape and Microsof=
to do about ActiveX (see The ActiveX Dilemma, linked at left). Within a f=
days, I had more than a thousand responses from all over the world.=20

I've linked a few representative comments at the bottom of this story. We
had a few extremists on both sides of the issue (Microsoft must die!
Netscape must die!). With those exceptions, there was a definite consensu=
You want:=20

1.Both companies to cooperate on interoperable standards=20
2.Netscape to fully support ActiveX=20
3.Microsoft to improve ActiveX with cross-platform support and better
4.Microsoft to keep ActiveX open and independent=20

I took your requests to top executives at both companies. Eric Hahn is
Netscape's senior vice president of enterprise technology. John Ludwig is
vice president of Microsoft's Internet platform and tools division. Both
have direct influence over their company's Internet strategies.=20

First, read what they have to say. (I wanted you to get the whole story, =
you'll see the responses in their entirety. I apologize if it seems long.=
Who seems most responsive? Who do you think has your best interests in
mind? Tell me what you think by clicking the "Talk Back" button at the ve=
bottom of this screen. Note: I didn't want to poison the well, so I saved
my take for last.=20

Here's what Microsoft and Netscape said about:=20

Cooperating to build interoperable standards
Eric Hahn, Netscape: Netscape has based its entire business on the notion
that multi-vendor, interoperable standards define the future of computing.
But the details are very important: Interoperability is best achieved
through the adoption of common standards like HTTP, LDAP, Java, etc.
Regrettably, some companies choose to put their own proprietary agendas
ahead of the support for standards. This is how some vendors try to lock
users into their technology=97they control the technology and they contro=
the user. So Netscape wants to cooperate. Netscape wants to interoperate
with anyone, any time. We think the right way to do this is by adhering t=
the standards.=20

John Ludwig, Microsoft: We are happy to cooperate with Netscape and every
other vendor in the Internet marketplace. We agree that multi-vendor
standards are critical to growth of the market. This is why we have turne=
ActiveX over to the Open Group, and why we have pledged to work with the
W3C on all HTML extensions. We encourage Netscape to take the same steps.=

Supporting ActiveX in Netscape products
Eric Hahn, Netscape: The message from users was clear: Netscape needs to
support ActiveX. So, on October 15th Netscape announced support for Activ=
as part of its "Embrace and Integrate" initiative. Many of our users and
developers have made big investments in OLE, COM, Visual Basic and
Microsoft Office objects=97we want to make it easy for those users to tak=
advantage of the Netscape platform and move to standards-based technologi=
like Java over the long term. Much of the "Embrace and Integrate" work wi=
be completed in our upcoming release of Netscape Communicator and SuiteSp=
3.0, with the remainder coming out early next year.=20

Improving ActiveX's cross-platform support
John Ludwig, Microsoft: Just last week we released our ActiveX SDK Beta f=
the Macintosh platform. And we have announced that we will make IE 3.0 an=
ActiveX support available on Unix this year. Many other partners are taki=
ActiveX to other platforms, and we will work with any vendor to help them
bring ActiveX to their platform.=20

Improving ActiveX's security
John Ludwig, Microsoft: Security is a key issue for the industry. All
vendors, including Netscape and Sun, are rushing to break through the Jav=
sandbox and extend Internet programming with libraries that do more than
permitted today. Once you want to add more than "dancing hippos" to your
Website, you need security designs that permit access to a complete range
of system services.=20

Microsoft has led in providing a solution, with ActiveX and Authenticode
code signing in Internet Explorer 3.0. We have since released IE 3.01 wit=
additional security support. And we are participating in the W3C meeting =
Oct 27th with JavaSoft, Netscape, IBM, and others to converge on an
industry-wide code-signing architecture.=20

Keeping ActiveX open and independent
John Ludwig, Microsoft: We are committed to making ActiveX an open
standard. The process has started with the move of ActiveX to the Open
Group and we encourage all vendors to work with this group to move Active=

In making this move, we consulted with all the stakeholders in ActiveX
today=97the customers and vendors with substantial investments in ActiveX.
These are the people whose livelihood are most affected by the future
evolution of ActiveX and so of course they were given the most chance for
input. Netscape and Sun were included in the process and participated in
the meeting at which it was decided to move ActiveX to the Open Group.=20

My take: When I look beyond the "am-not-are-too's," I see Microsoft tryin=
hard to play it safe. John's careful language reminds me of a politician
trying to dance around a dicey issue. Why didn't Microsoft make ActiveX
open from the beginning? Because it didn't have to. Can the company with
zero cross-platform credibility succeed in making ActiveX cross-platform?
Don't hold your breath. Still, the Open Group partnership is a step in th=
right direction.=20

Meanwhile, Netscape scores points for responding so quickly to your
requests. Make no mistake: The decision to support ActiveX is
risky=97Netscape could end up helping its arch-rival succeed. (BTW, Netsc=
still needs to be more open with Java Script and HTML extensions. But we'=
save that for another time.)=20

What's your take? Click the Talk Back button at the bottom of the page.
We'll be posting responses=97maybe yours=97throughout the day. You can be=
t both
Microsoft and Netscape will be dropping by to check the pulse.