The Internet is no longer a place that you visit with your computer and merely look at documents or gather informationincreasingly, it is an extension of your computer. You can now run programs that reside on the Internet rather than on your own computer, and tools have been developed that enable your computer and the Internet to interact as if they were one large computer system. This allows for all kinds of things never before possible: news tickers that flash breaking news; interactive games; multimedia presentations combining animation, sound, and music; and much more.
Java programs run inside your web browser if you have a Java-enabled browser, such as Netscape. When Java programs are run inside a browser, they are called applets. You don't need to do anything to run a Java applet. When you visit a website that has a Java applet on it, the applet is downloaded automatically from a web server and then run automatically in your browser. Java applets can be run on any computer, such as a PC, a Macintosh, or a Unix workstation.
ActiveX, a technology from Microsoft, enables Internet programmers to create programscommonly referred to as ActiveX controls or componentsthat can essentially turn the Internet into an extension of your computer. Similar to Java applets, these controls are downloaded to your computer and run there. They can do anything a normal application can do, in addition to interacting with the Web, the Internet, and other computers connected to the Internet. To run these controls, a browser that supports ActiveX, such as Internet Explorer, is necessary.
One benefit of ActiveX controls is that they are written as components, which means they can be put together, much like building blocks, to build larger and more complex applications. Another benefit is that, because you have already downloaded a component, you won't ever need to download it again. So, when you visit a page with a complex ActiveX application on it, you might need to download only a small portion of it because you might already have the other components on your computer.
How Java Works