What isActive Channel

Active Channel is a technology by Microsoft that allowed users to receive online content through a “webcast”. Its distribution mechanism enabled users to receive material through channels presented offline as typical web pages. Active Channel’s distribution platform offered a way for companies to push information from their corporate intranets to users through an information delivery system.

To make this possible, channel providers kept XML-based CDF files which contained URLs of the pages that made up the channel’s offerings. Channels could include various web components, such as Java applets, Microsoft ActiveX controls, Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and more.

Active Channel’s CDF technology provided users with content channels and software channels. Content channels included theme-based web pages, while software channels provided new software and updates. But, as widely used syndication formats like RSS emerged, Active Channel was no longer supported starting with Internet Explorer Version 4.0, and completely removed in Internet Explorer 7.


What is CDF in Active Channel?

CDF stands for Channel Definition Format. It is an XML-based file that contains the URLs of the pages that make up a channel’s offerings. This file retrieves when users choose a channel from their desktop.

Can Active Channel files be managed by web content producers?

Yes, web content producers can create, manage, and deliver Active Channel files using Active Channel Server, which is part of Microsoft Site Server 3.0. These files specify the structure and update frequency of the channel.


Active Channel was an early information delivery system by Microsoft that allowed companies to push information to their users through web channels. Its distribution platform provided content and software channels, which included various web components. Although this technology is no longer supported, it paved the way for widely used syndication formats like RSS that we use today.

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