Google Chrome Frame and its Internet Explorer 6 revival

Google Chrome LogoAccording to W3Counter.com, Internet Explorer (IE) is still the most popular browser on the Internet holding 43.3% of the global market share.  However, as many web developers are well aware, developing web pages for Internet Explorer, particularly older versions dating back to IE 6, can be challenging. This is due in part to the Trident rendering engine used in IE and it generally not rending open web technologies properly. Web developers have to code lengthy workarounds specific to the IE environment to ensure a page will load in a similar fashion across all of the major internet browsers. That is, until now.

Google just released a product called Chrome Frame that has been in beta for the past year and it will certainly change how web pages are developed and eliminate the specific workarounds necessary for older versions of IE. Put simply, Google Frame is an open source plug-in that integrates Google Chrome’s WebKit rendering capabilities (combined with its efficient JavaScript handling) into Internet Explorer. Google Chrome Frame allows HTML5 content, including the wonderful <canvas> tag, to be viewed seamlessly in IE 6, 7 or 8.

Google Chrome Frame was originally developed to support Google’s communication and collaboration tool Wave. Wave, while on the schedule to be discontinued, was revolutionary in how it provided real time collaboration with groups of people all over the world. Unfortunately, many of the features did not work or did not render properly in IE. Enter Google Chrome Frame, the solution being to simply have the user install a plug-in replacing the IE Trident rendering engine with the open source, HTML5 friendly and JavaScript speediness of Google’s Chrome browser.

To use the plug-in, web developers simply add a single tag to the page to detect whether or not the user has the Google Chrome Frame plug-in installed. If it is not installed, the users can be directed to the installation page to install the plug-in which installs just like any other third party plug-in (Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave, etc.) If the tag detects the plug-in is installed, the Google Chrome WebKit rendering engine begins rendering pages automatically.

While it is generally accepted in the web development community that IE 6 should be sunset because of its noncompliance with today’s development technologies, it’s an obvious fact that this won’t happen anytime soon. Using Google’s Chrome Frame can solve many problems a web developer will face when developing for IE which will lead to a more positive user experience.

Have you used Google’s Chrome Frame in your web development projects? Do you plan to in the future?

Richard Ward is a Sr. Web Applications Developer for OurChurch.Com. Richard's professional background is in LAMP style web development. Richard is also a technology enthusiast with a strong interest in emerging technologies. You can reach him at richard@ourchurch.com or on Twitter at @OCCRichard.

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