ActiveX is a technology introduced by Microsoft in 1996 as part of the OLE framework. It includes a collection of prewritten software components that developers can implement within an application or webpage. This provides a simple way for programmers to add extra functionality to their software or website without needing to write code from scratch.

Software add-ons created with ActiveX are called ActiveX controls. These controls can be implemented in all types of programs, but they are most commonly distributed as small Web applications. For example, a basic ActiveX control might display a clock on a webpage. Advanced ActiveX controls can be used for creating stock tickers, interactive presentations, or even Web-based games.

ActiveX controls are similar to Java applets, but run through the ActiveX framework rather than the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). This means you must have ActiveX installed on your computer in order to view ActiveX controls in your Web browser. Additionally, when loading a custom ActiveX control within a webpage, you may be prompted to install it. If this happens, you should only accept the download if it is from a trusted source.

While ActiveX provides a convenient way for Web developers to add interactive content to their websites, the technology is not supported by all browsers. In fact, ActiveX is only officially supported by Internet Explorer for Windows. Therefore, ActiveX controls are rarely used in today's websites. Instead, most interactive content is published using Flash, JavaScript, or embedded media.

Updated April 1, 2011 by Per C.

quizTest Your Knowledge

Which of the following is not a responsibility of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)?

Assign blocks of IP addresses to Regional Internet Registries.
Delegate the administration of top-level domains to registrars.
Regulate a minimum broadband connection speed among ISPs.
Maintain a registry of standard Internet protocols.
Correct! Incorrect!     View the IANA definition.
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