Active Group (Microsoft)

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The Active Group, created on October 1, 1996, in New York City, was a consortium formed to promote and facilitate the widespread adoption of Microsoft ActiveX technologies. Its primary goal was to leverage the success of ActiveX technologies and ensure they evolved to meet the broadest range of developer and user needs.

In this article:

  1. What was the Active Group?
  2. Microsoft dropped ActiveX support
  3. The Active Group Organization
The Active Group - digital illustration representing the Active Group and its focus on ActiveX technologies

1. What was the Active Group?

Active Group was a consortium of software and systems vendors that was dedicated to the promotion and widespread adoption of Microsoft ActiveX technologies. The goal of The Active Group was to build on the success of ActiveX technologies and ensure that their evolution meets the needs of the broadest possible community of developers and users. Microsoft provides source code, reference specifications, and validation testing standards for ActiveX technologies to The Active Group.

The Active Group functions as an authoring group working under the auspices of The Open Group, a group dedicated to lowering the barriers of integrating new technology across the enterprise. Members of The Active Group steering committee include Adobe Systems, Computer Associates International, DEC, Hewlett-Packard Company, Microsoft Corporation, Powersoft-Sybase, Sheridan Systems, Siemens-Nixdorf Information Systems, Software AG, Videosoft, Visio, and Wall Data.

This group was created in Oct. 1, 1996, in New York City. Learn more.

2. Microsoft dropped ActiveX support

The initiative faced challenges over time. While the Active Group started with high expectations, the overall plan and execution fell short of its intended goals. ActiveX itself, introduced by Microsoft, was controversial from the start due to security concerns and lack of portability, limiting its practical use outside of protected intranets. The security model of ActiveX heavily relied on identifying trusted component developers through a code-signing technology called Authenticode. Despite Microsoft’s efforts to make ActiveX cross-platform, most ActiveX controls did not work on all platforms, which restricted its utility. Eventually, Microsoft dropped ActiveX support from the Windows Store edition of Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 and did not include it in Microsoft Edge, marking the end of ActiveX technology in Microsoft’s web browser development.

The Active Group’s effort to standardize and push ActiveX as a cross-platform technology was ambitious, but it seems to have gradually diminished over time, likely due to the evolving web technology landscape and the challenges inherent in ActiveX itself.

3. The Active Group Organization

The Inception of the Active Group

According to Microsoft, the newly formed Active Group will be composed of the following:

  • A steering committee. The steering committee will consist of system vendors, application vendors, tool vendors, and customers. Its main tasks will include directing the development of associated technologies, creating and managing technology subgroups, and managing the porting of the technologies to a variety of platforms. To date, the following companies have agreed to participate as steering committee members:
    • Adobe Systems Inc.
    • Computer Associates International Inc.
    • Digital Equipment Corp.
    • Hewlett-Packard Corp.
    • Lotus Development Corp.
    • Microsoft Corp.
    • NCR Corp.
    • The Powersoft Division of Sybase Inc.
    • SAP AG
    • Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG
    • Software AG

The following companies have agreed to participate as rotating members for an initial one-year term: Borland International Inc., Sheridan Software Systems Inc., VideoSoft, Visio Corp. and Wall Data Inc.

  • Technology or market development subgroups. These groups will focus on the adoption and development of specific ActiveX technologies and cross-platform and interoperability issues.
  • Active Group members. These are general members who have taken or intend to take a license to the specification or a reference implementation under the general licensing terms.

New technologies, related to the original technologies provided by Microsoft, may be submitted to the steering committee, which will guide the future course of action.

Core ActiveX Technologies Provided

ActiveX is a set of technologies that integrate software components in a networked environment, regardless of the language in which they were created. This integration of components enables content and software developers to create interactive applications and Web sites easily. As a leading commercial object model, ActiveX has been widely adopted by corporate MIS and ISV communities and is used by millions of application and content developers today. Hundreds of ISVs currently market more than 1,000 ActiveX Controls.

No News of Significant Activity

The group, while established with significant intentions, did not appear to make substantial progress in its goals. This lack of development could be attributed to various factors, including the evolving landscape of web technologies and the inherent challenges within ActiveX itself. For a detailed examination of the Active Group’s history and activities, you can refer to the Tech Monitor article for more insights.