ActiveX control is widely used by Internet Explorer to load applications or components in Windows. It’s a useful piece of control, but is not without issues. In fact, ActiveX is known for security problems.

Despite security short-comings, ActiveX had been welcomed into the community and flourished. Surprisingly, more so in banks where security is a top priority. Believe it or not, ActiveX is so widely used that the South Korean government decides to make it compulsory for all banks to have it.

Other major browsers have resisted supporting ActiveX. Until now. Google Chrome has now decided to support ActiveX, but only in South Korea. Chrome’s decision to support ActiveX is, not surprising, to grab market share in South Korea. It’s dishearting that ‘Do No Evil’ Google has chosen to ActiveX, but considering how the market is like, it is understandable. Over 90% of South Korean user are IE users and google account for only 2% search in South Korea, making it a real minnow.

However, supporting ActiveX is not healthy for the open community as it means that users are further locked down into proprietary technology, and in this case, unsafe too. How ironic is that the South Korean government actually makes it a mandate to use ActiveX.

There has been waves of protest. According to openweb asia, the group that is leading the fight is Open Web. I quote from Web2.0 Asia about the fight against ActiveX.

Open Web, a Korean web forum led by professor Kichang Kim of Korea University is best known for its fight against rampant use of Active X in Korea, lost a lawsuit against the KFTC (Korea Financial Telecommunication and Clearings Comittee). Professor Kim accused that the Korean government’s mandate on the use of Active X programs for the internet banking and other public web services should be lifted, as it is against fair trade and “overly favors technology from a single company (that is, Microsoft)”.

So how does all this relate back to Web2.0? Prioprietary technology hinders an open friendly web. Developers should have the freedom to choose the medium of expression. And users should be able to use safe technology.

Postscript : An excellent post by Gen Kanai about ActiveX proliferation in S.Korea and the difficulty of being a non-Windows/IE user.