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Source: Microsoft Support

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Guidelines and requirements for add-ons that extend Internet Explorer

The following information applies to Internet Explorer 8 and all subsequent versions

Users of Internet Explorer (IE) expect to be in full control of their browser and browser settings, and expect to be able to use all IE features. 

This includes, for example:

·         The ability to use their preferred search provider and home page

·         The ability to be in full control of Internet Explorer and any software that affects the functionality of Internet Explorer

Microsoft recommends that all Internet Explorer add-on software should follow these guidelines:

Do not limit the user’s ability to use Internet Explorer features

Users require access to the entire set of Internet Explorer features including but not limited to: the address bar, search box, new tab page, to navigate and search the internet easily and safely. To support this guideline, add-on software must not remove or limit access to IE features.

Do not limit the user’s ability to control Internet Explorer settings

With default settings, Internet Explorer is a fast and safe browser. Users can choose any variety of search and accelerator web services in the browser, and set their preferred services as the default.

To support this guideline, add-on software must not change any IE setting without informing the user, or remove or limit the user’s ability to view and modify IE settings.

Only use supported APIs

Add-ons must only use supported Internet Explorer and Windows application programming interfaces (APIs). Using an unsupported method of extending Internet Explorer or relying on implementation details in a specific version of IE, may cause browser stability problems when Internet Explorer is updated. Software that uses supported Internet Explorer and Windows API will not encounter these issues when the browser or operating system is upgraded.

Microsoft recommends that software should not improperly limit the user’s ability to control Internet Explorer in the following areas:

Starting with Internet Explorer 11, add-ons must be compatible with Enhanced Protected Mode 

Enhanced Protected Mode (EPM) is a feature of Internet Explorer that provides users with additional protections. With EPM on, web and add-on content running within the browser has very limited access to sensitive system resources. Cache, cookies and other web-platform state information are available to web content for normal functionality, but protected resources like settings and user data are not accessible. By preventing read and write access to these sensitive parts of the system, we isolate web content into its own sandbox, thereby helping to limit the damage of a potential exploit

Removing and/or replacing Internet Explorer features

Software must not remove or replace any Internet Explorer features by disabling or limiting access to the feature user interface in Internet Explorer.

This includes, but is not limited to, replacing features such as the Internet Explorer address bar, search box, new tab page and favorites center.

Where software duplicates an Internet Explorer feature (for example, the malware filter) the software can request that the user turn off the Internet Explorer feature manually.

Where applicable: If a software product adds a user experience to Internet Explorer it should do it in such a way that does not limit access to an existing Internet Explorer feature.

The user must be in full control of their search provider default

Software must use one of the following two ways to set the search default:

·         Change the DefaultScope registry key using Windows Registry APIs

·         Using the IOpenService::SetDefault API (Available in IE8 and later)

Any software that wants to change a user’s IE search provider default must allow the user to see, review and approve any changes in the 'Internet Explorer - Search Provider Default' dialog. 

·         DefaultScope method

·         IOpenService::SetDefault API Method

The user must be able to approve or deny the search default change request in these dialogs.

The user must be able to change their search provider default at any point using the Internet Explorer user interface. When the search default is changed, other programs may request that the user change their search default (via the IE user interface outlined above).

The user must be able keep their search default set to their preferred search provider.

The following behavior is improper:

§  Software misrepresents itself or the proposed search default when showing the dialog.


o   Software uses a different application name or company name (from their download website, or other software UI) when showing the dialog.

o   Software misrepresents itself as a Windows OS component when displaying the dialogs.

o   Software misrepresents the name or URL of the new search engine it is proposing.

·         Software uses UI automation or any other method to automatically dismiss the search provider default dialogs.

· Software hides (or modifies the behavior of) the IE search box, search box dropdown, or Manage-Add-ons dialog. 

· Software hides (or modifies the behavior of) the IE address bar, address bar dropdown, or Manage-Add-ons dialog when its preferred search provider is not set as the default. 

· Software hides (or modifies the behavior of) the IE new tab page. 

The improper actions described above limit user choice: The software is attempting to change the user’s search default without using the IE user interface used by other software. 

The user must be in full control of their default accelerator providers.

Software cannot change a default accelerator in an existing category without informing the user via a user interface.

The user must be in full control of their IE settings

Software must not delete or modify search providers/activities/add-ons from other publishers without user consent.

Software must not lower IE security settings.

The user must be in control of their IE home page

Software must clearly inform the user if they want to change the user’s home page(s).

The user must be in control of their IE add-ons

Users must be able to fully disable any add-on in their browser.

Software must not re-enable an add-on that the user disabled.

Software must not prevent the user from disabling an add-on that the user wants to disable.

Software can inform the user that an add-on needs to be enabled so that the users can perform a certain task.

The user must be in control of their toolbars

·         Software must not obscure the toolbar close button [x]

·         Software either (i) must not hide or obscure the toolbar close dialog or (ii) must provide its own close dialog that gives the user the option to disable the toolbar. If the software provides its own close dialog, the disable option must be (i) neutrally presented when compared to any other options the software offers the user and with at least equal prominence and (ii) when selected, invoke the IE toolbar close dialog and comply with the user’s selections.

For instructions on how to invoke the IE toolbar close dialog, please click here.

·         Software must not use UI automation to automatically dismiss the dialog.

·         Add-on software must have an entry in the add/remove programs list.

·         Users must be able to fully uninstall add-ons.

Add-on load times and navigation times

Users can use the ‘Manage Add-ons’ dialog in Internet Explorer to see the average load time and average navigation time of an add-on. The average load time and average navigation time for add-ons are stored in the Windows registry.

Add-ons must not modify the average load times and average navigation times in the registry.

The user must be in control of their command bar (add-on UI)

Software may not re-arrange or hide icons from the IE Command Bar.

Note This is a "FAST PUBLISH" article created directly from within the Microsoft support organization. The information contained herein is provided as-is in response to emerging issues. As a result of the speed in making it available, the materials may include typographical errors and may be revised at any time without notice. See Terms of Use for other considerations.


Article ID: 973764 - Last Review: October 18, 2013 - Revision: 7.1
Applies to
  • Windows Internet Explorer 9
  • Windows Internet Explorer 8
  • Internet Explorer 10
kbrapidpub kbnomt KB973764

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