If you browse the Internet using Microsoft Internet Explorer you must have encountered that annoying phenomena where in many web sites controls, such as Flash or Media Player, display a tooltip containing the text “Click to Activate” when your mouse hovers over them. When you do click the control that text disappears, but the control itself appears to ignore that first click. So, for example, if you want to mute Media Player you may have to click the mute button twice: first to activate the control and again to actually mute it.
It wasn’t always this way. Controls embedded within Internet Explorer used to react to the first click without requiring the user to first activate them. This change for the worse in user experience occurred back in April 2006 when Microsoft was forced to distribute this “upgrade” to Internet Explorer. This was done as a result of law suit filed by a company called Eolas that had managed to patent the concept of browser plugins. You can read about it here.
Microsoft did published various methods to work around this limitation, using such hacks as dynamically updating the HTML on the client side using script. However, many sites did not apply these techniques, much to the annoyance of many users. Thankfully this is sorry tale is drawing to a close: Microsoft has licensed the technologies from Eolas, removing the “Click to Activate” requirement in Internet Explorer. Unfortunately for web developers, they will have to continue using the hacks previously provided by Microsoft for a long time to come, just in case some poor schmuck with a browser that has not been updated hits their website.