Google Chrome Frame & Google Wave not supporting any version of Internet Explorer

Yesterday, Google outed a very bold move of theirs, and then followed up with a statement that, to me, meant even more. We’re talking Google Chrome Frame and Google Wave deciding not to support Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome Frame

In Introducing Google Chrome Frame , Google explains that it is a plug-in to Internet Explorer, to completely replace the rendering engine with the Chrome one, based on WebKit. This means that you will get the same support within IE, that Chrome offers, when it comes to HTML and CSS features and JavaScript performance. Yes, for real.

It reminds me of when Mozilla, on a smaller scale, offered Screaming Monkey to replace the script engine in Internet Explorer, but it never really took off.

Google’s approach is that if you/the end user has installed the Google Chrome Frame plug-in, all you need to do is add this meta element to your web page/site:

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

The irony here is, of course, that this is the same meta tag Microsoft suggests to make Internet Explorer use its IE 8 mode or its Compatibility View – having a new option, “real fucking rendering”, so to say, is of course hilarious! :-)

Google Wave not supporting Internet Explorer

One very interesting thing was mentioned in Google Wave in Internet Explorer: Google Wave will not support any version of Internet Explorer; not version 6, 7 or 8.

They have come to the conclusion that it is such a waste of time and money to try and make it good in Internet Explorer (recognize the feeling?), and that it will be sub-par at best, anyway, so they will not develop for it. Instead, they will recommend to Internet Explorer users to either install the Google Chrome Frame plug-in or to install another web browser which have better support and superior performance (can’t help wonder why Opera are never allowed amongst the web browsers Google list).

A picture of Google Wave for Internet Explorer visitors

Picture taken from Google Wave in Internet Explorer

My thoughts

I’m really on the fence here about Google Chrome Frame. My two basic takes are:

No one will care

The way I see it, most people who use Internet Explorer belong to one of two categories:

  • Home users who have no idea what a web browser is, and will not install anything (or, in some cases, everything – different story… :-) )
  • Company users with company IT restrictions where it doesn’t matter if it’s a web browser upgrade, new browser or “just” a plug-in – they’re not allowed to install anything.

When it comes to the latter category, my estimate, after having seen a lot of different companies’ IT departments and learned about their values and general stance, is that they will shrug their shoulders and just ignore this. And if people can’t install Google Chrome Frame, and those in charge won’t let them, it’s practically useless and will have no impact.

Part of this, also, is that I believe people, to some reasonable extent, should be able to access any content on the web, and that it is our job as web developers to offer this to them. It’s not their problem if they use a less competent web browser.

It’s fantastic!

When I first heard about Google Chrome Frame, I liked the idea and I know Alex Russell behind it is one of the smartest developers in the world. I am 100% convinced that this has been implemented in an optimal way, especially from a performance perspective, so not having to develop for any Internet Explorer rendering engine sounds like a god-send!

And what will make this matter is not just that Google offers the technology to do it, it’s that they require either the plug-in or a more competent web browser for Google Wave. And if Google Wave comes even close to the potential it has, it will a serious contender to, or at least as popular parallel service as, Facebook and Twitter; people will care since they will want to be able to use it. Just imagine the effect if Facebook had this requirement!

I also think what will decide how this is perceived is that Microsoft have a long business history of locking people in, of business strategies crushing opponents and any chance of competition, and it has led to their extremely poor reputation today. If we look at Google, instead they have just focused on delivering kick-ass services that everyone will want to use, not be forced to. And this is why this might have effect: it’s there to make people’s web browsing lives better, not just an attempt to quench other companies’ offerings.

The effects of this

I feel that we have crossed a line. It’s not just about the regular IE 6 complaining, it’s about companies openly stating that Internet Explorer just doesn’t cut it and that it’s time, from a financial, sanity and best-for-the-web standpoint, to demand more. Microsoft can’t just ignore this, especially with the steady decrease of Internet Explorer users, so the way I see it, they have three options:

  • Stop developing Internet Explorer. Just say it was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to face the facts and let go. (this will not happen)
  • Come to the conclusion that the rendering engine never have the possibility to match the open-source work of WebKit and Gecko, and instead focus on everything around the content, and integrate one of the open-source rendering engines. (this will not happen either)
  • Put full focus into making Internet Explorer 9 the most kick-ass web browser in the world – screw backwards compatibility! I’m sure Microsoft has the financial abilities as well as skilled developers to do it, so it’s “solely” a matter of business strategy (to complement this, they should offer multiple side-by-side versions of Internet Explorer, something I am sure they can technically do, but unfortunately it will never happen)

Either way you see it, Microsoft, the gauntlet has been thrown. Time to step up and act.

Posted in Developing,Google,Technology,Web browsers |

28 Comments

  • Robert, I have dedicated a post right now about that "all you need is to add the meta" :-)
    http://webreflection.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Andrea,

    Interesting! Good technical look-in! And I completely agree about using conditional comments.

  • Chris says:

    Company users with company IT restrictions where it doesn’t matter if it’s a web browser upgrade, new browser or “just” a plug-in – they’re not allowed to install anything.

    If you're running Windows (which is probably the case for corporate users) you don't need any permissions to install chrome (the browser, not the plugin): it installs completely in the user's home directory. I think that Google had just the corporate users in mind while deciding to do this.

    I'm curious how it is with the plugin, knowing that IE's behaviour (in this case concerning plugins generally) can be restricted really good with security policies.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    Yes, for some it will install. My guess, though, is that companies go out of their way to block anything they can.

  • BARTdG says:

    @Chris:

    At a company I work for, I am sure I will be able to install Chrome, but the proxy-server will ban it from the internet. I tried Firefox from a USB-device, but I could only browse the intranet (which broke horribly, cause it 's an IE6-only fuck-up).

    As far as I know, they have no plans for upgrading to IE8 or something better and frankly, I guess it's not going to change for some more years. I think this situation is typical for many big companies, so IE6 is going to be around for quite some time, while IE7 will disappear because home users will upgrade to IE8.

  • Andreas says:

    This is awesome. I've started using the Universal IE6 CSS along with no JS for all versions of IE on any project I can myself. It's such a pleasure to be able to just write code and not worry about IE. And if you stick to progressive enhancement IE users won't be left out completely.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    BARTdG,

    Ah, right, the proxy server block as well…

    Andreas,

    Absolutely – it's a delicate balance. :-)

  • [...] strafed twitter with re-tweets, technical questions and some guessed answer about Chrome Frame, Robert Nyman has already expressed his thoughts about Wave choice and latest Alex Russell [...]

  • Pedro Teixeira says:

    .. and, of course, Google does not consider this as a step twards "locking users in" by first doing a "locking users out of". Paint it as you will – with nice technical excuses – but it is just browser war and Google is slowly taking the same path MS did once.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Pedro,

    Good point. I think it's a difference, though, because Google Wave will support any web browsers up to a certain standard, which is every web browser based on open source code.

    And it is a browser war, but more against IE, than just for Google Chrome.

    But sure, I agree, locking users out isn't a good thing either.

  • Colin Bowern says:

    @Chris – If apps continue down that path IT departments will look to take up AppLocker in Windows 7 (known as Software Restriction Policies in Windows XP) to protect the stability of their desktop. For the sake of users programs should install themselves into the place that was designated for them – Program Files on Windows, Applications folder on OS X. Reflecting back on security principles – if a hacker can get you to run something on your computer then your data is no longer safe.

  • [...] IE6 pueda desaparecer de las estadísticas más pronto de lo pensado. Aunque hay quien piensa que apenas tendrá efecto en el mundo real ya sea porque los que quedan por convertir no instalan nunca nada, ya sea porque dependen de un [...]

  • Eli says:

    Hey, I really liked your post, but I have a bit different view then yours.

    I think this actually a first sign to the death of IE rending engine.

    I'd like to hear your take on my opinion, see Elis.ws.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Colin,

    Good point!

    Eli,

    Read your post.
    I agree that the home users part could be discussed, and yes, if the installation process becomes super-smooth, maybe it could be an option.

    When it comes to System Admins and wanting to upgrade, at least my experience have been that that is not the case. The ones I’ve seen in various companies mostly care about just locking the users down and make sure they can’t do anything that might cause any problems.

    But, if Google Chrome Frame becomes very easy to centrally distribute, and proves to be no hazard, stability risk etc, it might at least get some implementation.

    Either way, I hope this move improves the web interface developing landscape. :-)

  • [...] Google Chrome Frame & Google Wave not supporting any version of Internet Explorer (tags: browser chrome html5) [...]

  • Richard Fink says:

    Chrome Frame for IE is fantastic?
    Mischief is what it is. A ploy. A disservice to web users everywhere.
    Is it not a kind of Trojan horse?
    Deception, even if you feel it is to good purpose, is still deception.

  • Lars Gunther says:

    Google Chrome is not the messiah-technology of the web. I.e. We do not need to be for or agianst it 100 %. In fact, I would advocate an wait and see approach.

    That said there are two aspects I like:

    1. The potential upgrade of MSIE 6 and 7 for some users.

    2. Microsoft feeling the heat so that they must prioritize MSIE 9, perhaps by throwing a few more really good programmers on it.

    However:

    1. It might backfire, so MS instead opts for an even harder push of Silverlight.

    2. Chrome still has zero accessibility for blind people and other users of screen readers. Until Google makes this a priority to fix they are still not good enough in my book.

    3. The prompt that the users see to install Chrome Frame or another browser should really mention Opera as well.

    In many ways Google acts as if their main enemy is Opera. This is only one more piece of evidence towards such a conclusion.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Richard,

    Is it mischief and a ploy? Sure, sort of. Is it a disservice? I don’t agree. I think what’s important here is at least the implications that Microsoft will step up, and/or popular services on the web will require more and better support.

    But like I mention in the post, I’m on the fence about this: I think content, in one form or the other, should be accessible, but at the same time, financially and time-wise, I understand a move like this.

    Lars,

    Agreed that Chrome is no Messiah for the web, and I hope, like you, that those aspects you mention you like will come through.

    In terms of harder push for Silverlight, isn’t that already happening? Difference is know, the web browser landscape is more varied, so they can’t choose technology on their own anymore.

    Google Chrome accessibility definitely has a way to improve.

    And about Opera, yeah, I can really understand why they consistently neglect to mention or acknowledge them.

  • [...] strafed twitter with re-tweets, technical questions and some guessed answer about Chrome Frame, Robert Nyman has already expressed his thoughts about Wave choice and latest Alex Russell [...]

  • Christian says:

    Nice, they just gave me another good reason to not using Googles products/services.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Christian,

    That might very well be the case for you, but I think a lot of people think otherwise.

  • Stevie says:

    Hey guys, I was searching the web today and came up on a few corporate websites that I was able to get in quite easily. I’m awesome! So I went in and found a bunch of Google Wave invites for their employees just sitting there. I gave away 13 of these to all my friends already and there are a few left. I don’t want to get in trouble by listing the steps up here, if you want one, shoot me an email to stevencruisest@gmail.com. BTW, it’s not that easy to do this, I’ll have to talk you through it. But I can only do a few, so when you get one then you need to go on and help others in getting another. Spread the goods around.

  • Acutally I now Google Chrome is one the top used browsers after IE and FireFox. I do use to check a few sites from where the visitors come from and what browsers they use – the 1st is IE, Firefox, Chrome and other browsers.

    Obiviously Google browser would be used by many, hence its market share has gone up. You can understand it from the search engine market share graph itself http://www.hermesmyth.com/internet_marketing_blog/2009/09/search-engine-market-share/

  • James says:

    This is pretty bad… IE 6 wasn't that great… but 7 and 8 are fine…

    I went through hell making sure my websites were compatible with the brand new Google Chrome browser and I went so far to blow off a few extra hours making sure Safari support was good… I've even (believe it or not) had to make changes to accomodate Firefox when they release newer versions.

    Let's not forget who came up with the XHHTPRequest, The build in WYSIWYG editor capabilities and innerHTML…

    I think Google just has a bunch of hacks working for them who can't put the extra effort forward to make it work.

    I mean come on… WAVE is a server side technology… The least you could do is put the effort forward like the GMAIL team did to support every browser.

    Wave sucks and this is a big black mark on how I feel about the company as a whole…

  • [...] 10, I found there to be quite a performance hit – AND I’m not able to run Google Wave (Firefox & Chrome only) I have been using Chrome as my secondary browser for 3 weeks and have found it to be very speedy. [...]

  • [...] 23: Google Chrome Frame & Google Wave not supporting any version of Internet Explorer [...]

  • drew says:

    just a quick update to this article: chromeframe no longer requires admin privileges as of mid 2011.

    guess we only have the clueless on the list of candidates…. all we need now is a nice infographic and maybe a video….hmmmmmmmm

  • Robert Nyman says:

    drew,

    True, but most companies/end users will probably be a bit wary, I think. Better to get those companies to upgrade their web browsers overall.

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