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Google Chrome Frame is Here to Save Us All!

Google introduced Chrome Frame today, which is essentially a plugin for Internet Explorer to use Chrome/Webkit as it's rendering engine. This at first may seem like one of Google's Aprils Fool's jokes or an attempt to make Microsoft even more embarrassed of IE. However, when looked at closely, the Idea to bring Chrome to IE is very clever and might actually work!

The problem is clear: While Microsoft certainly fixed many issues of the now infamous IE 6 in their newer versions, IE 8 still has many many problems and is far behind in terms of standard compatibility, features and speed. This has hindered many sites from using new technologies and ideas and oftentimes forces developers to backpedal in order to still support IE. So how do we get people to switch to a different browser?

Imagine you're visiting a website and are greeted with a message like “Your browser is not supported by this website. Please download one of the following browsers...”. Would you do it?

For the average user, the answer is of course no. There are way to many hurdles to overcome. Many people don't even know what a browser is. For them, IE is the Internet. They won't understand why they need to install a new software and they won't know what to do if they wanted to switch. Even if a user exactly knows what a browser is and how to install software, he'd still have to trust the browser vendor that this new software won't do any harm to his PC and he'd also have to invest some time to get familiar with it. It's just not worth the effort.

Now imagine you're visiting this website and you get the message “You need the plugin XYZ to view this site”. Imagine this plugin was created by Google – a company you know and can be sure of that they won't harm your PC. Installation of this plugin is just one click away. You don't have to download or install anything manually and your browser will look and behave exactly the way it used to.

Google Chrome Frame is just that. It's only a plugin, but for web developers it has the same benefits as if the user switched to another browser. If you're working on a high-end website that you can't possibly get working in IE (like Google itself does with Wave), or that just would work better with a standard compliant rendering engine, then Chrome Frame seems like a very good answer.

Tuesday, September 22nd 2009
— Dominic Szablewski, @phoboslab