“Press SPACEBAR or ENTER to activate and use this control”

Three days ago (April 11) Microsoft released an Internet Explorer update in response to the patent battle between Microsoft and Eolas. After installing the update, Internet Explorer (not other browsers, fortunately) users will be required to “activate” embedded objects and plug-ins before they can interact with them. Here’s what sucks, most users will receive this update automatically via Windows Update. Embedded objects and controls affected are:

  • Adobe Reader
  • Apple QuickTime Player
  • Macromedia Flash
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player
  • Real Networks RealPlayer
  • Sun Java Virtual Machine

In order to activate these objects, users are required to press the space bar, enter key, or use the mouse to click on the item. Anyone that’s tested the Internet Explorer 7 beta will have noticed similar behavior within that browser. According to w3schools browser statistics, over 60% of web users browse using Internet Explorer, meaning within the next few days approximately 60% of visitors to Flash websites, or sites using embedded media will be required to activate the media before being able to use it; because of this, some users may assume that the website is broken.

Here’s the good news: Microsoft has posted a solution for web developers that would like to avoid their content being blocked. Essentially, in order to avoid this problem all that a web developer needs to do is embed the object via external script files. Those who have opted for Unobtrusive Flash Object placement within their websites will not be affected, because their content is already embedded in this manner.

What’s ironic about this entire situation is that it actually forces developers to use a more standards compliant approach, go figure.