Dave Woods - Freelance Web Design Warwickshire

Has Google Fixed Internet Explorer?

Google have recently launched Google Chrome Frame which is their attempt to fix Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 and bring them up to date with the more advanced browsers like the Webkit Engine but at what cost?

What is Google Chrome Frame

Sorry if this is common knowledge as it was announced a couple of weeks ago but as I was catching up on my RSS feeds this seemed like big news in the industry and is something that could affect all of us.

If you haven’t heard what Google Chrome Frame is then here’s a quote from the Google Chrome Frame Website

Google Chrome Frame is an early-stage open source plug-in that seamlessly brings Google Chrome’s open web technologies and speedy JavaScript engine to Internet Explorer. With Google Chrome Frame, you can:

  • Start using open web technologies – like the HTML5 canvas tag – right away, even technologies that aren’t yet supported in Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8.
  • Take advantage of JavaScript performance improvements to make your apps faster and more responsive.

There’s also a Developers Guide for anyone wanting to have a play with the idea.

Is it a good or bad idea?

In principle it sounds like a good idea but as much as many of us dislike Internet Explorer is this really the solution? The main problem with Internet Explorer 6 is that businesses don’t want to upgrade their users because they have software which relies on the IE6 engine or people simply don’t know any better and have stuck with IE6… so why would either of these two user groups take the time to install a plugin that enables Google Chrome in their browsers? The answer is that they probably won’t and therefore if we decide to create code for the Chrome Frame then we’ll also have to ensure that it’s done using progressive enhancement so that there is fall back for those IE users that don’t have the plugin. Isn’t that just more work?

Does this not defeat the whole purpose of using web standards where one set of code will be understood by all browsers?

Mozilla have also joined Microsoft in critisising Chrome Frame with some excellent points:

Imagine having the Google browser-within-a-browser for some sites, the Facebook browser-within-a-browser for Facebook Connect sites, the Apple variant for iTunes, the mobile-carrier variant for your mobile sites.

Each browser-within-a-browser variant will have its own feature set, its own quirks, and its own security problems. The result is a sort of browser-soup, where the Web is less knowable, less understandable and certainly less manageable.

Summary

It’s good that Google are trying to move the web forward but sadly I don’t think this is the solution. The web has moved forward considerably since the browser wars of the 90’s and I think that going down this route could potentially be a step backwards for web developers and web standards.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months though and of course please feel free to leave any of your thoughts or comments below.