Tuesday, September 29th 2009

The Big Problem with Google Chrome Frame

Google recently announced Chrome Frame, a plug-in for Internet Explorer which lets web sites use the rendering engine from Google Chrome instead of IE’s default rendering engine, Trident.

Before I understood how this was meant to work, i thought Wow! Google are going to rid the web of Internet Explorer! My happiness soon came to a screeching halt though.

If we ignore all the difficulties of making Chrome’s rendering engine (Webkit) play nicely with the Internet Explorer interface, there is one fundamental problem that stops Chrome Frame from becoming the web saviour that everyone was hoping for.

The problem that Chrome Frame aims to fix – the large user base of Internet Explorer coupled with its stone-age rendering engine – exists mainly due to lack of knowledge.

People who keep using Internet Explorer do so largely because they don’t know about the alternatives, or what a huge problem IE is for web developers.

The number of IE users who have made a conscious decision to stick with IE, but still are knowledgeable enough to understand the benefits of a modern rendering engine, can probably be counted on a few thousand left hands.

So, along comes Chrome Frame. But, the essential factor knowledge is just as lacking now as it has been before. Chrome Frame still requires IE users to knowingly install it, which I really can’t see happening.

Google Wave Logo

However, Google may have another card up their sleve. A card known by the name Google Wave.

Google Wave is, drasticly simplified, a replacement for e-mail. It is an online tool for communication and sharing. Now this sounds like something we’ve all heard a million times before. It isn’t.

Anyway, Google have given up on trying to get Wave working properly in Internet Explorer. Wave relies heavily on modern standards, and IE is just too far behind. Instead, Google Wave will ask IE users to install the plug-in Chrome Frame. Or another browser.

If Google Wave catches on properly it may well give IE users a healthy nudge in the direction of better browsers and/or Chrome Frame. And having seen the demo of Wave, I think it may very well become the next big thing.

However, having followed the browser market for ten years or so, I’ve seen how slowly it shifts. I doubt Chrome Frame and/or Wave will introduce any dramatic changes.

4 Responses to this post:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Totally not worth a blog bost, nor an answer.

  2. Martijn Vos says:

    You're missing one really big group of IE users: corporate users. There are a lot of ancient corporate intranet sites built with proprietary Microsoft technology. Those sites only work in IE6, and are too expensive to rewrite with modern, standards-compliant technology.So even if they want to use Chrome, those users are stuck with IE. Of course they (their admins, actually) could install a second browser, but then the poor corporate users would get confused about which browser to use for which site. GCF would allow those users to use the same browser for their prehistoric intranet sites and for modern HTML5-using sites (like Wave, and soon Youtube and everything else from Google).GCF solves a very real problem. A really stupid retarded problem, but a real problem nonetheless.

  3. Jean-Philippe Martin says:

    You forgot corporate. Where I work there is 20k + pc with IE6 only. There is a lot of intranet applications that would have to be migrated to another engine. Having this plugin approach, each developer take one app at a time to test it and migrate it.

  4. Kathy says:

    Corporate users will not jump on the Google Wave bandwagon, at least not in the foreseeable future. They will be simply not authorized to collaborate in an environment that could potentially jeopardize sensitive data, so I don't see how corporate users would be able to benefit from the Frame.