What is Chrome Frame? According to the announcement, it’s an “open source plug-in that brings HTML5 and other open web technologies to Internet Explorer.”
Sounds like John is right at first, but let it sink in for a second. If you’re a web developer, how much time do you spend coding around the various functionality quirks and gaps in IE versions? Theses inconsistencies are why sites like Digg and YouTube have abandoned IE6.
This is reason why we stopped fixing non-critical IE6 bugs in Connect.
With Chrome Frame installed, an IE user (any version) gets the same experience as a Chrome user, meaning:
I doubt it was intentional, but note the phrase “even in Internet Explorer” for a window into how web developers feel about it.
If installed on the client, Chrome Frame is triggered by a simple meta tag on the page. So, supporting it is easy for developers. Rich added the meta tag to Connect’s pages this afternoon, and we each tested Chrome Frame on IE6 in our VMs.
Check out the short video on Chrome Frame for a full overview.
Beyond the gains for web developers and users, Chrome Frame is interesting for a couple reasons.
First, the approach is very smart. Studies of browser usage show that a large percentage of IE6 users must use it and cannot install a different browser. IT policies at their workplaces prevent upgrading IE and don’t afford users high enough privileges to install software on their machines.
This may be the biggest contributing factor to IE6’s ability to hold 15-25% (depending on who you ask) of browser market despite its advanced age of eight years old. If IE6 were a child, it would be in second grade. If IE6 were a dog, it would be a “senior” dog.
Modern browsers, even newer versions of IE, have been slow to take market share from IE6, so Google took a different approach with a browser plugin.
My Windows sys admin skills are pretty rusty, but I think installing an ActiveX browser control doesn’t require admin privileges. So, users that want modern browsing can have it with a plugin, even when they can’t install a new browser or upgrade IE.
It’s also interesting that Google would build a workaround to fill gaps in a competitor’s browser. Why would they do that?
Mashable alludes to the impending launch of Google Wave next week as the reason. Wave can’t be transformative if it sucks for IE users or about 65-70% (again, depending on who you ask) of the users out there.
So, Chrome Frame is a necessity for the success of Wave. I expect that Wave will require IE users to install Chrome Frame before using it for this very reason. Not many of the target users will understand that IE is crippling Wave’s functionality. Instead, they will right off Wave as being slow or buggy or whatever.
And first impressions matter, especially with something as shiny and new as Wave promises to be.
Anyway, your thoughts on all this? Find the comments.