August 15, 2004
XPSP2: A Farewell to Pop-ups
This week, Microsoft released the long anticipated Service Pack 2 to Windows XP, promising a more secure WinOS in this world of zombie armies and exploits. This upgrade also spells an end to the scourge of unrequested pop-up windows and if your sites rely upon them for legitimate purposes, you need to pay attention now to the changes the update brings. Best to deal with before distribution reaches critical mass and your customers/users start to have problems.
Besides describing changes to Pop-up window handling, the MSDN article Fine-Tune Your Web Site for Windows XP Service Pack 2 covers changes to Internet Explorer that affect ActiveX controls, file downloading and new browser window restrictions. This document is a must-read for web professionals.
But this entry is all about pop-ups...
Web sites that automatically pop windows will no longer work under XPSP2. This includes sites using plugin content like the Flash Player that pop windows. Note the new plug-in behavior is a significant twist not found in competing browsers or add-on toolbars from the like of Google and Yahoo. Keep this in mind if your site uses plug-ins to pop windows.
Pop-ups opened as a result of a direct user action such as clicking on a link in a page will not be blocked (though such a direct user action in a Flash movie will be blocked). When pop-ups are blocked, the user may hear a sound and see a small message area appear underneath the browser toolbar which reads "Pop-up blocked. To see this pop-up or additional options click here..." to which a user may temporarily allow or turn off pop-up blocking.
While savvy and existing users may add your site to their Allow list, I suspect many people have been so frustrated by pop-ups that they'll ignore the blocking message, assuming the pop-up was unwanted advertizing.
Consumers with automatic update enabled may already have started the update process; my office machine was updated mid-week while my home machine is still downloading as I write.
For those who can't wait, a 266 MB network installer is available for download from the TechNet IT Pro portal at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/winxpsp2/
How many people will this affect? Google's Zeitgeist shows WinXP traffic accounting for just over 50% of their traffic, which, according to another NPD study that also reports around 50% of all net-connected computers, could account for 250 Million users.
Due to the size of the update and bandwidth issues, Microsoft will spread out the delivery of SP2 over the next couple of months, probably starting with those of us who installed the release candidates for testing, and expects 100 Million XP users to be updated by that time. Soon, new purchasers of PC machines will find their boxes come with WinXPSP2 pre-installed.
Recommendation: download the update to a test machine and check your sites asap for problems and rethink in-progress projects that plan on using pop-ups.