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Programming Windows: ActiveX (Premium)

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Microsoft announced ActiveX---or as it was originally called, ActiveX Technologies---in March 1996 as a way to bring so-called “active content” to the web. Microsoft would “activate the Internet with ActiveX.” Put simply, ActiveX was Microsoft’s answer to Java, in the same way that VBScript and JScript were its response to JavaScript. Internally, ActiveX was based on the COM technologies that Microsoft has earlier created for OLE 2.0, but made smaller, lighter, and faster for the web.

Well, that was the marketing. In reality, ActiveX was just COM rebranded. By this time, Microsoft had expanded the original COM with DCOM (Distributed COM), which completed the original design for COM by allowing components to interoperate across machine boundaries and over a network. This was particularly important for distributed networks like the Internet. In any event, ActiveX, being COM, allowed developers to write code in the tool of their choice using the language of their choice and then access functionality in components that existed on that same machine or on some other host on the Internet.

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