Obsolete, Dead or Downright Dangerous

With the release of TTerm Connect, Turbosoft’s HTML5, browser based terminal emulator, we take a look back at previous generation technologies that attempted to offer the functional equivalent of desktop software in a web browser, with varying degrees of success.

Java Applets

What was it?

A Java Applet is a small application written in Java and run within a webpage. Released by Sun Microsystems in 1995, applets represented an early attempt to bring the functionality of applications to a then limited web browser environment.

Sun's Java
Where did it fail?

Java applets were, in theory, secure but in reality they were plagued with security issues and become a favorite attack vector for malware and other internet nasties. Also, while portable in the sense that a Java applet authored once could be displayed on any number of systems, they still required some client side installation in the form of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and a browser plug-in, which required updates and client side maintenance (for example, to patch the previously mentioned security issues).

What finally killed Java Applets was web browser vendors discontinuing plug-in support; Google Chrome ended support in 2015 and Mozilla Firefox announced plans to follow shortly afterwards. Microsoft ended support with the retirement of its Internet Explorer browser. Its replacement, 'Edge', does not support applets.

A number of terminal emulators were written using the technology, indeed, our own TTWin 4, whilst not a Java Applet, supports a Java Native Interface (JNI) which enables an applet or Java application to access TTWin functions.

OCX/ActiveX Controls

What was it?
Active X project in Visual Basic.

ActiveX was a Microsoft technology which enabled software to be directly embedded and rendered into a web page.

Where did it fail?

ActiveX controls were essentially applications run within your browser. The breadth of access they could potentially have to a computer running the control meant that, like Java Applets, they were often targets for malware. Whilst some sites used ActiveX controls for legitimate reasons others would attempt to run malicious controls or content. Microsoft introduced 'ActiveX filtering' in Internet Explorer 9 in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

As a Microsoft technology it was only ever supported by Microsoft’s own browser, Internet Explorer. As Internet Explorer’s user base declined to rivals such as Google’s Chrome browser and Mozilla’s Firefox, it became less relevant.

Finally, when Microsoft released Internet Explorer’s successor ‘Edge’ in mid-2015 they chose to omit ActiveX support, citing these security issues and a preference for native HTML5 alternatives.

Turbosoft’s TTWeb was an ActiveX based terminal emulator.

Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight

What was it?

Adobe’s Flash was a platform used for distributing rich media type content primarily in browser environments. It consisted of an authoring environment for content creators and a number of free browser plugins for various systems which allowed end users to view flash content.

Macromedia Flash 3 Spalsh tile.

Flash was primarily used for animations, videos, games and other 'rich' type media, however full blown applications were occasionally written using Flash. It’s use of vector graphics in particular, made its output (.swf files) compact in an era when bandwidth was limited and small download footprints were highly desirable.

Silverlight was Microsoft’s proprietary flash equivalent, capable of providing similarly rich applications within the browser. It never reached the heights of adoption and popularity that Flash did.

Where did it fail?

Flash (and Silverlight) suffered from the same range of criticisms as Java applets and ActiveX. They suffered from security vulnerabilities, they needed vendor plugins or similar client side installations and were not adopted on some platforms, most notably Apples iPhone and iPad devices, making them less than ubiquitous.

We’re not aware of any terminal emulation solutions being available using Flash or Silverlight.

The Future

All of these technologies fell out of favor for the simple reason that it became possible to offer a full desktop application-like experience through native browser technologies. No plug-ins, no platform or vendor specific technologies, no applets. Nothing other than the standard browser and basic web standards such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

The maturing of browser technologies was the impetus to create our new, web based terminal emulator, TTerm Connect. TTerm Connect is a zero client install, pure HTML5 terminal emulator and, being built on common web technologies and standards means that TTerm Connect will be at home on any modern web browser for any operating system. Any host, any device.

If you’re looking for a centrally administered, fully featured browser based emulator with broad terminal support, consider TTerm Connect. For more information visit the TTerm Connect product page or reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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