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Google plug-in puts Chrome inside IE

Chrome Frame boosts JavaScript, adds HTML 5 to IE, both necessary for new Wave, says Google

September 23, 2009 07:14 AM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. today released a plug-in that embeds its Chrome browser into rival Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, a move one analyst said could be an admission by Google that getting users to switch is harder than it anticipated.

Dubbed Google Chrome Frame, the open-source plug-in can be used with Internet Explorer 6, IE7 and IE8, said Google in a blog post introducing the new software.

Google cast Chrome Frame as a way to instantly boost the notoriously slow JavaScript speed of IE, and as an answer to the conundrum facing Web developers when designing sites and online applications that rely on Internet standards IE doesn't support, such as HTML 5.

"One challenge developers face in using these new technologies is that they are not yet supported by Internet Explorer," said two Chrome engineers and a Chrome product manager on Google's Chromium blog. "Developers can't afford to ignore IE -- most people use some version of IE -- so they end up spending lots of time implementing work-arounds or limiting the functionality of their apps," said Google's Amit Joshi, Alex Russell and Mike Smith in the post.

The three were right about IE's popularity: According to the most recent data from metrics firm Net Applications, IE accounted for 67% of all browsers used last month. Mozilla's Firefox, at No. 2, held a 23% share, while Chrome owned just 3% of the market.

Developers can tell IE to flip the switch to Chrome Frame with a single HTML tag on their sites or in their applications' HTML code. Users, however, must install Google Frame manually.

Although Google portrayed Chrome Frame as a boon to developers and users -- "We believe that Google Chrome Frame makes life easier for Web developers as well as users," said Joshi, Russell and Smith -- others speculated today that the move might be a way for Google to sneak into systems now running only IE.

Sheri McLeish, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., saw it differently.

In her eyes, Chrome Frame, while good news for developers and even users, is an admission by Google that it won't be able to tempt many IE users, especially those running it within enterprises, into switching.

"Google is realizing that the potential to get people to move off IE is harder than it thought," McLeish said. "Clearly, Google is gunning for Microsoft in all its business, but this is an unexpected path to take for what seemed like an effort on its part to offer a full alternative to IE."

"It might give Google more exposure within an enterprise setting, where it lacks the kind of administrative tools that Microsoft offers for IE," she said, "but what's the motivation for people to migrate to Chrome when they can get some of its benefits within IE? I think its message to get people to migrate is actually decreased. I'm just not sure where Google is going with this."



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