Google Chrome Frame Puts Chrome in Internet Explorer

oh snap!oh snap!

In the if-you-can’t-beat-them-shove-a-tube-down-their-throat-and-plant-eggs-in-their-chest department, Google has released Chrome Frame, an open source plugin that drops Chrome’s HTML (WebKit) and JavaScript (V8) engines into IE. Ars has a good summary as usual.

The idea is an IE user stumbles upon your site that has a X-UA-Compatible meta tag in header that tells the Chrome Frame plugin to render the page with Chrome rather than Trident (IE’s engine). For IE users that don’t have it installed, you can load some JavaScript that will prompt the user to install Google Chrome Frame. After installation, the user will view the site (and all subsequent X-UA-Compatible sites) with Chrome. Not only will users get stuff rendered in a standards compliant way, it’ll be much faster (Slashdot reports it as 9.6x faster than IE8, which means it’ll be a bazillion times faster than IE6). And users won’t have to give up their retched IE user interface. Yay!

As a web developer the idea of not having to support IE anymore makes me want to jump for joy, but this creeps me out a little. Some people use IE because their stupid IT department makes them, and they will be savvy enough to see Chrome Frame as a joyous prison break. I have no problem with that. But a lot of people use IE because they don’t know any better. They’re going to see a browser window with words in it they won’t read, click to install just as they would install Flash (the I-don’t-know-any-better IE user will click on anything), and have no idea what happened. Even though what happened is positive, it’s still a little unsettling. It’ll make these users think IE is a lot better than it really is, which isn’t a good thing either. And this will happen for all versions of IE, including 8. While IE8’s web standards compliance still lags behind, it isn’t as awful as it used to be.

Microsoft’s only contribution to the debate so far is that they are afraid it would make IE less secure, which caused more laughter across the web than the time they said IE was secure. Microsoft isn’t above screwing with other browsers either, doing things like dropping Silverlight and .NET Framework Assistant excrement onto my Firefox install. Add that to the fact that they still push out the world’s worst web browser, my empathy for them on this one is pretty low.

For my part, I might stick in the X-UA-Compatible meta tag in my pages so people can take advantage of Google Chrome Frame when they visit my sites if they already installed it, but I don’t think I’ll push the download. I have no problem popping up a “your browser is outdated” message to IE6 users, but I’m not ready to shove a tube down their throats and plant eggs in their chests. At least not yet.