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What is an ActiveMovie?

By S. Lilley
Updated May 16, 2024
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ActiveMovie is a type of streaming media technology for the Windows® operating system. It was the successor to Video for Windows®, which was in use in the Windows® 3.1 and Windows® 95 operating systems. It was renamed and replaced by a similar technology, DirectShow®, which began being used in every version of Windows® starting in 1997.

Streaming video is a concept that sees video information transmitted to a user's computer using an Internet connection. Instead of downloading an entire video file to a computer hard drive, users can view the entire video as fast as their Internet connection is able to provide it through a Web browser or similar program. Streaming video is a main component of video hosting sites such as YouTube™ or Metacafe®.

ActiveMovie specifically allowed computers to access streaming video directly from within the Internet Explorer® web browser. With ActiveMovie installed, users could view streaming videos embedded into the HTML code of sites that used this technology. ActiveMovie also allowed Windows® Media Player® to access the same types of videos from within that particular program's interface.

The installation of ActiveMovie saw a program called ActiveMovie Control installed on the same hard drive. This program acted as a rudimentary media player that allowed users to play audio and video files on a Windows®-based computer. Though developed by Microsoft®, ActiveMovie Control lacked some of the more advanced features of the company's own Windows® Media Player®.

The ActiveMovie streaming file (ASF) video file format is the main format used by ActiveMovie technology. An ASF file was simply a container file that contained information that a browser then used to retrieve the audio and video information associated with a particular streaming media source. It did not contain the audio and video information itself. This should not be confused with a second type of file that uses the ASF extension, called the advanced systems format file, which does contain audio and video information.

Originally available both as an individual download and as a part of Internet Explorer® 3.0, ActiveMovie was eventually rolled into the Microsoft® DirectX® collection of programs. DirectX® includes several other technologies that all control the way the Windows® operating system displays content such as digital video, digital audio and computer games. Due to ActiveMovie's integration with Internet Explorer®, it could only be uninstalled via a command prompt or by uninstalling the web browser from a computer.

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