Posts Tagged ‘windows’

Google Chrome Frame – Hope for IE users?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Google have just announced a new browser plugin called Google Chrome Frame.  The unusual thing about Chrome Frame is that it isn’t a plugin for Chrome (Google’s own browser), it’s a plugin for Internet Explorer!  It should work with any of the current versions, IE6, IE7 & IE8.

What Chrome Frame does is tell Internet Explorer to use Chrome’s rendering engine (Webkit) rather than IE’s own rendering engine.  The benefit for the user is faster browsing, particularly when a website uses Javascript, Chrome’s javascript module is much faster than IE’s equivalent.  The benefit for the website developer is that Chrome is a good modern browser, standards compliant and supporting a lot of newer features such as HTML 5 & CSS2/3 which are not even supported in IE8.

The theory is that if a web page works in Chrome then it will work in IE with Chrome Frame.  Chrome Frame is still very new so they are not quite there yet but I’m sure they will get there.   All those IE specific problems which website designers have had to work around for years, including those still hanging around from IE6, will become a thing of the past.  Wonderful!

But will people use it?

The problem is that Chrome Frame, being a plugin for IE, has to be installed by the user.  Do you remember the bad old days when it seemed that every new site required a new plugin?  Once the user has installed Chrome Frame all will be well but that first installation is the sticking point.

As a webdesigner I can put a piece of code on any of my websites which pops up a window giving an IE user the option to install Chrome Frame so they can view the site properly, but I don’t really want to do that.  People are, and should be, wary of installing things when asked to do so by a website.  And I don’t want people to navigate away from my site because it is too scary or demanding.  In any case most sites work fine  in IE anyway so why do they need to install a plugin?

My real hope is that corporate IT installations might think that installing Chrome Frame to upgrade IE6 would be a good idea.  IE6 is currently the most popular browser in the world, largely because there is no reason for the big corporates to change to anything else.   But a plugin might be different, any existing applications will continue to work fine but new applications could use newer features without the extra coding needed to cope with the particular quirks found in IE6.  It could be quite a money saver.

Critical Mass

I will be monitoring my Google Analytics reports for the day when I see “unChromed” IE6 usage drop below 5%.   I think that will be the time to put the plugin code on my own sites.  And when it drops below 2% I will consider ignoring IE6 all together, a happy prospect.

In the meantime I will carry on as usual, coding around the quirks in IE6 and ignoring the other features I might use if IE7 & IE8 supported them.

I wonder what Microsoft think about Google writing a plugin for them?