Publishers Begin To Activate Over Active X
As reported recently (MediaDailyNews, Jan. 6), Microsoft plans changes to its newest version of IE, resulting from a verdict against the company in a patent infringement case. The browser, due out early this year, will halt the loading of content using Active X controls and prompt a pop-up message requiring user approval before loading continues. This means that each and every time the browser encounters content such as Flash, Windows Media Player, Apple QuickTime, and RealVideo, downloads will be disrupted. That is, unless code "workarounds" provided by Apple, RealNetworks, and Macromedia are implemented.
Online publishers play a major role in determining the impact of Microsoft's decision on user experience and ad effectiveness. Many seem unfazed, while some are taking tentative steps if any.
"We're in the middle of figuring out how this will affect us and what we can do in advance of it," asserts Don Marshall, director of communications at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.
Michael Zimbalist, executive director of The Online Publisher's Association, says the group hasn't officially promoted the issue to its members thus far. The OPA is planning a briefing "to share some learning and thinking with publishers," he notes, although "nothing's on the calendar yet."
Yahoo! has been working with Macromedia regarding the situation for "several months," according to a company spokesperson, who adds, "we do not anticipate any ad delivery issues."
Others are waiting to see where the legal labyrinth leads. "If the ruling is upheld," says NYTimes.com's Stephen Newman, "the amount of work we have to do is minimal." The director of project management and development for the site continues, "The penetration of the browser is going to take some time, so it's not like you have 24 hours and then you're in trouble."
Still, Microsoft's dominance of the browser market is nothing to discount. When IE6 was unveiled during the summer of 2001, WebSideStory reported that within its first week on the market the browser had surpassed global usage of Netscape 6, which had been released late the previous year. In July of 2003, OneStat.com marked the browser's global usage share at 66.3%. According to the Web analytics firm, all versions of IE combined have a total global usage share of more than 95%.
The OPA's Zimbalist suggests that ad serving firms are the ones dealing with the issue. Although many of them have yet to take significant action, Accipiter has stepped up to the plate with its AdManager V7 ad serving platform, which is set to comply with Microsoft's and Macromedia's guidelines. Marketing technology and ad serving firm Bluestreak is also making a concerted effort to alert its clients to potential problems.
"It sounds scary on the surface," comments Tim Napoleon, manager of business development at VitalStream, a Flash video streaming service provider, "and then people see the workaround and say 'that's all it was?' " VitalStream, which serves large media outlets including Edmunds.com, is in the process of implementing necessary modifications to its technology in order to obviate any IE glitches.
Dan Rayburn, EVP of StreamingMedia.com has received "lots of requests and inquiries" about the issue. He's doubtful that the workarounds will truly solve the problem, and wonders whether the lack of a more permanent solution may deter developers from creating content specifically for the new version of IE.
To preempt download interference with its streaming audio and video content, The FeedRoom has "conducted research and development which will be released shortly to address the issue," according to Elena Perez, manager, marketing and integration at The Feedroom. The company creates private label video destination sites for clients such as iVillage, which has a Feedroom featuring video clips on entertainment, movies, and fashion.
"It's a very legitimate concern," concludes StreamingMedia.com's Rayburn. Beyond a "down and dirty workaround, most people don't have a game plan on how to solve this."