File Under: Software & Tools

New Google Plug-in Embeds Chrome Inside Internet Explorer

Want to start using all the websites that take advantage of the latest technologies in HTML5, but can’t move away from Internet Explorer? Google has your back.

The company has released an open-source plug-in for IE users called Google Chrome Frame. It can be used to automatically force IE to load a website using the same WebKit rendering engine as Google Chrome, complete with its enhanced JavaScript rendering and support for HTML5 technologies like Canvas and embedded audio and video.

To implement it, all the developer needs to do is add one line of code to a page’s header:

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

If a user is running Google Chrome Frame within the IE browser, the plug-in will detect that line of code and fire up the Chrome engine. The website site gets served inside a Chrome wrapper running within IE. Site builders can load up their pages with the latest CSS and JavaScript enhancements, even those unsupported by Microsoft, and those IE users running the plug-in will be able to see them just fine.

The plug-in accomplishes this engine switching using the IE=EmulateIE7 tag Microsoft built in to Internet Explorer 8 to ensure compatibility with older, quirkier websites.

This is pretty much the height of awesomeness — or audacity. Google wants everyone to start using HTML5 as soon as possible, but IE doesn’t support HTML5 natively. So, the company hacks Microsoft’s browser to run Google’s browser inside of it.

Google is coyly releasing this now as a lead-up to this fall’s public launch of Google Wave, the company’s real-time communication tool which makes extensive use of WebKit’s JavaScript and HTML5 rendering abilities. The company wants to ensure that Wave works for everyone, including IE users.

But it’s an especially welcome development to those who want to start using the latest web technologies, but aren’t able to switch browsers due to corporate lockdowns on installing software or other, similar limitations on user privileges on their machines. Of course, use of the plug-in assumes the users can install their own plug-ins, but restrictions on app extensions are less common than restrictions on application installers, .exe files or mounting disk images.

From Google’s Chromium blog:

Recent JavaScript performance improvements and the emergence of HTML5 have enabled web applications to do things that could previously only be done by desktop software. One challenge developers face in using these new technologies is that they are not yet supported by Internet Explorer. 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.

Here’s a video:

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