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{   October 07, 2003   }
Four Steps Back
Here we are again rooting for Web Standards (at least a certain portion of them), though this time with an unlikely ally, Microsoft(!). The very same company that wanted to make the internet run by its rules is now up against the wall, so to speak, from an unheard-of-until-now company, Eolas. It seems long ago, in a galaxy far far away, Eolas patented the idea to embed content in web pages via plug-ins (i.e.- Quicktime, Flash, etc.), and now wants Microsoft to pony up. They just recently brought this to Microsoft’s attention in court, with the judge ruling in their favor.

Now this puts everyone in an odd position, depending on what Microsoft plans to do that is. As of now, they are going to appeal the ruling, while at the same time prepare an updated version of Internet Explorer. In this new version, whenever the browser encounters plug-in-driven content, the user will need to confirm the display of said content before it can load, in effect upsetting the seamless user experience with a (hooray!) pop-up dialog or some other such nonsense. In this brave new world, As Zeldman rightly puts it, ”…where rich media is concerned, the web could soon look like 1993 all over again”.

So what now? Wait for Macromedia to just make the Flash plug-in a bonafide browser instead? Abandon all hope and kneel at the altar before Mr. Nielson? Not quite. There is always at least one workaround. Apple, Macromedia, and Microsoft have already weighed in with suggestions for your future (and current) coding needs.

That’s all fine and good, but what about the bigger picture, Web Standards? The web had enough trouble crawling out of the primordial ooze; a potential blow like this could really be devastating, especially to a company like Macromedia that was practically built on a plug-in. I am sure the other browser and plug-in makers are hearing footsteps as well. Can’t we all live under the same roof?

Hang on tight, because it’s not over yet.

Update - What IE users have to look forward to.