A technology developed by Microsoft for sharing information among different applications. ActiveX is an outgrowth of two other Microsoft technologies called OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) and COM (Component Object Model). ActiveX supports new features that enable it to take advantage of the Internet. For example, an ActiveX control can be automatically downloaded and executed by a Web browser. ActiveX is not a programming language, but rather a set of rules for how applications should share information. Programmers can develop ActiveX controls in a variety of languages, including C , C++, Visual Basic, and Java.


An ActiveX control is similar to a Java applet. Unlike Java applets, however, ActiveX controls have full access to the Windows operating system. This gives them much more power than Java applets, but with this power comes a certain risk that the applet may damage software on your machine. To control this risk, Microsoft developed a registration system so that browsers can identify and authenticate an ActiveX control before downloading it. Another difference between Java applets and ActiveX controls is that Java applets run on all platforms, whereas ActiveX controls are currently limited to Windows environments.


Related to ActiveX is a scripting language called VBScript that enables Web authors to embed interactive elements in HTML documents. Just as JavaScript is similar to Java, so VBScript is similar to Visual Basic. Currently, Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer, supports Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX, whereas Netscape's Navigator browsers support only Java and JavaScript.