Is Google Chrome Frame the right approach?

Google have just released Google Chrome Frame for IE in an attempt to improve Internet Explorer. But will it have a real world impact?

We have seen so many campaigns against IE, most originating from the design and development community. We rant and rave, but we rarely offer much in the way of solutions.

Google on the other hand is trying a more proactive approach with the launch of Google Chrome Frame. Essentially it is a plugin for IE that renders sites viewed in IE using the Chrome rendering engine, rather than the IE engine. To the user it looks like they are still using IE when in fact the site is being displayed in Webkit.

The problems

To get your website to render in Google Chrome Frame it is necessary to add some meta data to your pages. This is certainly easy to do and I can see it being adopted by web applications that do not currently support IE. However, before this can work the user has to first install the plugin. That is where things get tricky.

As I have said before, the reason most users are running IE6 is because they are in corporate environments where they do not have the opportunity to upgrade. They do not have the freedom to install plugins.

Also, I have concerns about the message this is sending. This should not be viewed as a way for us as web designers to drop IE. It undermines the ‘accessibility for all’ message which I believe is so important. We should be supporting all users no matter their choice of browser.

That said I do see some opportunities here.

The opportunity

What excites me most about Chrome Frame are corporate environments. As I have already said, the biggest proportion of IE6 users exist within corporate environments. Their IT department will not allow them to upgrade. However, this decision by IT is not made just to spite web designers. It is made for a number of good business reasons.

One such reason is compatibility with legacy systems. A lot of organisations use web applications that only work in IE6. They are prevented from upgrading because of the cost associated with rewriting a business critical application.

What I love about Chrome Frame is that it provides a work around for this situation. IT departments can install the plugin and get the best of both worlds. They can still use IE6 for their internal apps while Google Chrome Frame will render some of the more advanced applications on the wider web.

Conclusions

Despite some concerns I do believe there is a place for Chrome Frame. However, take-up is going to be the key to its success or failure. Of course the big question is will we even be able to track take-up? Will the plugin identify itself as Google Frame, IE or even Webkit? Will our stats packages be able to tell us if I substantial number of our IE users  have the plugin installed?

We shall see.

Boagworks

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