Chrome Frame Final Released

Contributing Editor

Chrome Frame has come out of beta and the stable version is available from google.com/chromeframe/.

What’s Chrome Frame?

Chrome Frame is Google’s attempt at “fixing” Internet Explorer. Many organizations, particularly governments and large organizations, use mission-critical legacy intranet applications which were written for IE6 and fail in other browsers. If they can’t or won’t upgrade the application, users must retain IE. Web developers are therefore unable to leverage the power of modern technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, canvas and SVG in new applications.

End users could be given two or more browsers. However, the cost of distributing multiple browsers, maintaining updates, training and support is not always cost effective — especially in the current economic climate. Few users know what a browser is and support teams could become overburdened with staff using the wrong browser for the application they’re accessing.

Chrome Frame is a novel solution to the problem. It’s an IE plug-in which switches the browser to Chrome’s webkit rendering engine:

  1. Corporations can retain older versions of IE for legacy applications.
  2. The user retains a single browser, favorites and cookies so training and support is minimized.
  3. Web developers can configure web applications to switch to Chrome’s view within the IE interface.

How do users install Chrome Frame?

The plug-in can be downloaded from google.com/chromeframe/. IT administrators can download an MSI installer for deploying Chrome Frame across the network.

Google intend updating the plug-in as regularly as the Chrome browser. Updates occur silently in the background — few users will realize they have Chrome Frame installed.

How do developers use Chrome Frame?

You have several options if you want IE users to view your application in Chrome’s rendering mode…

1. Add a meta tag
Add the following meta tag to your HTML page <head>:


<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">

2. Use an HTTP header
Use the following HTTP header when serving your page:


X-UA-Compatible: chrome=1

This can be sent by your web server on a site-wide basis. For Apache, ensure that mod_headers and mod_setenvif are enabled and add the following to your httpd.conf configuration file:


<IfModule mod_setenvif.c>
  <IfModule mod_headers.c>
    BrowserMatch chromeframe gcf
    Header append X-UA-Compatible "chrome=1" env=gcf
  </IfModule>
</IfModule>

Users of IIS 7.0 and above can set the header in the application’s web.config file:


<configuration>
  <system.webServer>
     <httpProtocol>
        <customHeaders>
           <add name="X-UA-Compatible" value="chrome=1" />
        </customHeaders>
     </httpProtocol>
  </system.webServer>
</configuration>

Further information is available from the Chrome Frame Developer center. Google also provide a JavaScript library to detect Chrome Frame and prompt users to install the plug-in.

Will organizations adopt Chrome Frame?

Chrome Frame incurs fewer human and technical barriers than other solutions and more organizations should consider the plug-in now it’s out of beta. It’s speed and stability has improved and web sites such as HootSuite, github, YouTube and Google’s other systems are switching to Chrome Frame.

While it’s a clever idea, there’s no guarantee companies will install the plug-in across the enterprise. Many will need a compelling financial reason — not just because their web designer wants to use a swanky CSS3 effect.

Is your company stuck with a legacy version of IE? Are you considering Chrome Frame?

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  • http://www.pixelfusion.com.au stevo632

    It would be interesting too see this taken up. If google can ensure that its a requirement for gmail and youtube ie6/ie7 users, and its spreads as something almost as standard as Flash it will definitely be something worth considering.

    If they can get it so that they don’t need administration rights to install would be perfect. And even better, so the user doesnt need to restart there browser. Similar to Chrome Plugins in chrome, but I guess that one is a wild card very very unlikely to happen.

    Any developers here used it for there sites. I know a developer who used it on a site with 100,000 visitors a month for ie6/7/8, and the take up was pretty good, lost some small percentage of users though…

  • cruxwireweb

    So interesting to see Google fixing Microsoft’s problem. I wonder what their long term plan for this is.

  • Wardrop

    The motivation here I believe is that Google wants to drop support for IE6/7 as soon as possible, but they understand that by doing so, they’ll be alienating a lot of organizations who are dependent on these old browsers for compatibility reasons. By releasing Chrome frame, Google can recommend organisations who may already use Google services such as Google apps, to deploy Chrome frame as part of their SOE. If they just dropped IE6/7 without providing an alternate solution for those locked into IE6/7, they would likely loose business and upset customers.

    That’s how I see it anyway. They’re not doing it for any other reason than to help themselves; they’re fixing their own dilemma basically.

  • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

    I agree with Wardrop; I think it’s a cynical product and entirely the wrong solution.

    How to maintain support for IE6? Employ a professional developer who knows how to make things work in it!

  • phrenetical

    Right so what your saying is, every company on the face of planet earth with a website should hire a developer with a penchant for bug fixing in IE6. Great solution, I’m sure it is way cheaper then using Google frame too. While we are at it, why don’t give IE6 an award for “possibly the worst thing to happen to the Internet” since maybe the Conficker Worm, which you can then present to anyone willing to listen to your drivel.

    Sure Google have their reasons, but at least someone is providing an alternative solution to the abject horror that is IE6.

    • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

      Yes, that is what I’m saying – companies should hire professional developers. It doesn’t take any kind of specialist – anyone who calls themselves a professional developer knows how to fix IE6 bugs; or rather, doesn’t cause those bugs in the first place.

      You also seem to have no appreciation of history — in its day, IE6 was far and away the most advanced browser available. Worst thing to happen to the internet? Perhaps, if your perspective only stretches back a couple of years. But some of us have been at this a little longer.

      • phrenetical

        “IE6 was far and away the most advanced browser available”, they said something similar about the “I love you” email virus.

        I know from experience just how little extra money tends to be available to fix IE6 issues when developing apps, so if you can convince your users to work with Webkit to make the price of your product ‘cheaper’, it is a win for you and a win for the Internet in general. Personally I’d love to block every single ie6 browser request from my websites, simply because I wouldn’t want it treading it’s muddy feet through my nice carpet, i mean code…

        btw I know plenty of professional developers who have no idea how to fix IE6 bugs, that’s why they employ me, so get down off your high horse, heck, then I might even come down off mine :)

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      If it’s just a case of supporting IE6, I agree with brothercake — there’s no reason why you can’t create a modern web application which works in every browser. It may have a different or degraded experience, but it’d continue to function.

      That said, even modern technology such as HTML5, SVG, canvas, geo-location and web workers can operate in IE6 with freely available JavaScript shims.

      However, Chrome Frame may be useful in situations where the development cost exceeds the benefit. For example, assume a system works in Chrome and it’ll take an hour to code and test IE6 functionality. If you only have 3 users with that browser, it’d be more cost-effective to install CF.

  • noonnope

    i believe i will like this.

    finally, it seems we are going to be able to have some normal serious developers talk. so far we had an “oprah talk” on how to solve ie problems. enough.