Turn Internet Explorer into Chrome with Chrome Frame

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Google Chrome

I'm just going to cut to the chase: Internet Explorer is rubbish. I don't care what version you throw at me -- 6, 7, 8...rubbish. Apparently Google agrees with me because they've released Google Chrome Frame, a browser plugin and META tag system that allows you to turn IE installs into a virtual "Chrome" install so that IE will support HTML5's canvas tag and take advantage of JavaScript performance improvements featured in Google Chrome.

Step 1: The Plugin

The user must first download the Chrome Frame plugin at the Google Chrome Frame page. The install works on XP and Vista operating systems, IE browser versions 6, 7, and 8.

Step 2: The HTML META tag

To activate Chromified Internet Explorer you must add the following META tag to your pages:

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

That's it! Check out a demo here:

More Details

Jump over to the Google Chrome Frame page to get more details about this project. There's a great video featuring Alex Russell (of Dojo fame) where he explains the reason for Chrome Frame and usage.

Our Savior?

I don't believe so. There are two big problems I see:

  • Most IT teams are keeping their businesses employees in the dark world of IE6. Chrome Frame would be a great solution for employees looking to get with the 90's but how many businesses give their employees proper permissions to install applications? No many.
  • Users who don't know the difference wont put an effort into downloading this plugin (i.e. my grandmother doesn't even know what a browser is, much less IE and why it's bad).


I'm very interested in seeing what you all think of this. Crap? Gold? Let me know what you think!

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  1. I think it’s really just a publicity stunt. If people actually *know* what a browser is and *want* to run a non-IE browser and they *can* then they will. Why bother using IE with a plugin in you can use the actual browser? All that a prompt to download some plugin is going to do is to piss some people off and they might just leave your site instead. And all those people with locked down browsers and computers in corporate environments are unlikely to be able to install the plugin anyway.

  2. Brett

    We have an internal site and we allow anyone to install just about anything. Im going to have everyone install this thing as it will allow me to eliminate IE from my check lists. I do agree that making someone download a plugin is kinda dumb. Why not just install chrome?

    For my very specific needs though, it’ll work. Those who NEED ie can have it on all sites but mine.

  3. Ahmed

    Oh well, IE8 on Windows 7 here and nothing happened (Even though I had the frame installed earlier) :-/

  4. Mr.X.

    Internet explorer is rubbish. Just run acid test. But hey it is not all that bad for average user… Is it?
    I mean I’ve tried Internet explorer, and let me tell you something it is not all that bad. In fact if you are some average user that does not really care, you probably will not change. Lets face it, there are many, and much greater browser out there but IE still have a large share. Some people don’t care, some people can’t switch.
    What is the bottom line?
    People that are willing to try this plugin are probably willing to switch to other browser, so I do not see this as a big hit. It has some use, but I do not see it as a great one. Just on remotely related note I use Chrome as my primary browser, switched form Firefox. I see it as best out there.

  5. I wonder more if this is Google giving Microsoft a kick up the arse to get their shit together with IE’s rendering engine rather than a serious project….

  6. @Ahmed: Same Here

  7. Ben

    Yeah, kind of an impractical solution.

    • Trevor

      no its not..

      its not meant for private individuals to can just install any application on this own pc.

      certain companies have standards.. such as IE6 browsers only! (yup, ie6 only…), and this plugin is actually an answer to problems faced by web app developers in bringing RIA apps to work in ie6

  8. Daniel Buchner

    Google should bounce every 5th search for users on IE6 & 7, I bet you would see use of those clusterf*** browsers dive to almost nothing in a matter of a week. Google should grow a spine, go all gorilla dom-o-nation super punk and do this with all of their apps, if Facebook joined the fight it would revolutionize the internet almost overnight.

    Think of it this way, if you love Gmail, Google search and your Facebook account, wouldn’t you download a tiny plug-in to get the nag screen gone? You can say no, but everyone knows you would you liar! :)

  9. Phil

    Don’t quote me on this but I don’t think chrome Frame needs an administrator to install.

  10. This is really just for Google Wave (coming Sept. 30), which needs a faster Javascript engine like V8. They’re totally going to require it’s use for IE 6-7 I’ll bet.

    I’m tempted to try this out on my blog since I get such a small percentage of IE traffic.

  11. Gotta be kinder to IE6 considering how amazing it was in it’s own time. The users and the IT bone-heads are the problem there.

    IE7 and IE8? … yes, rubbish.

    But IE6 brought AJAX to the masses (while IE5 actually introduced it)

  12. @rpflo: Don’t get soft on us! :)

  13. I think less tech savvy people are more apt to install a plugin than switch browsers. This could be good. :)

    Nice article.

  14. not all people are (web) developers, they may not see the good point of this, so I cannot just ignore IE for now

  15. Phil

    To me, this is beyond being targeted at developers who want to stop using workarounds and hacks for IE6 on simple websites.

    I believe this is more exciting for users who want to use bleeding-edge web applications utlising HTML5 but don’t want to, or can’t, move away from IE.

    Take mozilla bespin as an example. It simply wouldn’t be possible to successfully build an app like that without the canvas tag and a fast javascript engine. IE users can now use such apps and MS will surely be forced to step up their game.

  16. Just tried installing Chrome Frame at work and you DO need administrative privs to install it. I would’ve been shocked if you didn’t need them, actually. Would be seen as a “shady” thing for Google to do by purposely trying to bypass admin privs.

  17. Phil

    I must apologise. I did say not to quote me ;o)

    Interestingly, Chrome itself can be installed without admin priv http://blog.chromium.org/2009/01/google-chrome-installation-and-updates.html

  18. I think it’s a smart move by Google, for a number of reasons.

    It’s MUCH more difficult to get lots of people to switch to another browser than it is to get them to just install a plugin. Not easy, just less difficult. That’s especially the case for people who don’t even know what a browser is, but think that little “e” means “internet.”

    Of course probably the biggest challenge will be getting Frame popular enough that it gets widespread acceptance, ideally as much as Flash. I think Google can do that though. In the first place, their name carries a lot of weight already, being practically synonymous with search. But also, Google has many popular services (Google Apps, GMail, YouTube, etc.) that they could suggest, if not require, the plugin. As Eric Wendelin mentioned, Wave is a DEFINITE candidate for requiring it.

    For businesses that have already deployed Google Apps, it won’t be such a hurdle to get them to allow installation of the Frame plugin. It’s a whole different story to get them to upgrade or switch browsers.

    And as long as Google sorts out the accessibility issues and gets it to run smooth and reliable, the web designer/developer community will push it out there. Many are already displaying messages to upgrade/switch, which this could take place or be added to. For those that haven’t gone so far as to display a message, this may get them to. Everyone else will just have it on their site transparent to the user.

    Overall, I think they’ve got a great idea. If it doesn’t quite catch on, no harm done. But if it does get big, it will certainly make me a happier web designer.

  19. Vraylle

    A lot of I.T. departments that would never allow another browser to be installed would have no problem allowing yet another plugin (including the department where I work). Company intranets that rely on “classic” IE for old ActiveX controls for internal applications would be unaffected.

  20. Mr.X.

    @rpflo: AH… The Good-Old-Times…
    /*wipes a tear */

  21. Google also requires Chrome Frame with Wave. That’s a BIG deal.

  22. This is awesome news for a small percentage of IE6 users who will be using a large commercial control panel I am developing. Definitely not something for ordinary site developers to consider though – you will end up alienating people.

    IE isn’t all bad though – let’s not forget the smooth dragging of complex elements, such as in-page dialogs (directx acceleration) where Firefox etc. end up with horrible tearing, and of course the smooth page scrolling. I can’t bare the scrolling in Webkit.

  23. Rpflo

    Must be a windows thing because nothing drags or scrolls better than webkit on a mac

  24. I would have preferred if it would have worked just like the Firefox plugin that let you switch between the firefox and IE engine. It would be simpler since it would not require to change the web page code and would be easier for the end user.

  25. Why download a plug-in when you can download Chrome itself??

  26. Ben

    This is very clever.

    Even my grandpa is familiar with plugins. Most people have already installed Flash, Quicktime or Adobe Reader. It’s a LOT less daunting than installing a whole new browser (given that most of our grandparents don’t even know what a browser is).

    In a corporate environment, IT departments should definitely jump on Chrome Frame as an easy way to let their employees use The Internet circa 2009, without completely upgrading browsers and breaking crappy intranets.

    If you’re in a corporate environment using IE without ANY plugins installed, odds are the internet already looks pretty crappy. There’s not really much we can do to provide that crowd with rounded corners and drop shadows, nor should we.

  27. @Adrian von Gegerfelt: Cause they might not be allowed to install an other Browser at work (e.g.), but maybe a “simple” plugin

  28. atomic1fire

    @Chris: Provided google is smart and allows administrative options, like Group settings and rollout, IT teams who have to support outdated software but want newer technology support might turn to Chrome Frame to fill in the blanks,
    Also, People tend to mindlessly install things when it involves games.
    Thats why I think Chrome Frame should try aiming at the facebook crowd, If they use simple enough language, it might work.
    especially with google’s name on it.

  29. John

    The biggest issue I’m seeing with Chrome Frame from an IT standpoint is the size on the install. We have a couple of in-house applications that do not work in Chrome, but we’re also switching from Exchange to Google Apps. So we would like to roll out Chrome to everyone (~2000 workstations over the VPN), but we still need IE 7/8 for those in-house apps. I’ve created LANDesk packages for both Chrome (customized with install preferences and GPO) and Chrome Frame. To my amazement, the IE plugin and the full-blown Chrome are the same size! What??? 25 MB for a plugin???

    What would be really nice is if Google made a Chrome Frame package that also installs the stand-alone Chrome browser. Or do they, and I’m just not seeing it?

  30. Bryan

    yes, use IE have fun having all of your information sold to the highest bidder… Same with Chrome, except Chrome has the courtesy to say they are spying on you… Mozilla! The only bastion of internet freedom left.

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