Google has some good news for those of you stuck using Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8. The company’s Chrome Frame technology, which injects the Google Chrome rendering engine into Internet Explorer, can now be installed without needing admin privileges in Windows.
For now the new features are only in the experimental dev channel, but once this build has been stabilized the new features will roll out to the beta and final release channels.
While it’s true that simply switching web browsers is a far better solution than using Chrome Frame, for those who can’t switch browsers because they’re stuck in corporate IT environments where old versions of IE still reign supreme, Chrome Frame remains the only real solution. Of course such environments are also precisely the sort of places where users can’t install their own software, which is why Google has eliminated the need for admin rights to install Chrome Frame.
Triggering Chrome Frame is left up to individual sites, which must add a meta tag to their pages to check for Chrome Frame.
For more info on what’s new in the latest release of Chrome Frame, check out this video from Google’s ongoing I/O conference in San Francisco:
So if you’re stuck using IE6 or IE7 at work and would like to see what the latest and greatest on the web actually looks like, you can grab the official release of Chrome Frame from Google. If you’ve been using the Chrome Frame beta, you’ll automatically be updated to the latest version.
According the Chrome blog, the latest release of Chrome Frame is three times faster on Windows Vista and Windows 7, and the most common conflicts with other IE plug-ins have been solved.
While it sounds like a good idea — improving the web by bootstrapping older, less capable versions of IE — Chrome Frame has proven to be quite controversial. In the past, Mozilla Vice President of Engineering Mike Shaver has quite convincingly argued that Chrome Frame for IE muddles the user’s understanding of browser security, and in the end will create more confusion and little benefit.
Still, whether or not it’s a good idea, Chrome Frame appears to be here to stay. The Google Chromium blog reports that sites like DeviantART and Github have already added support for Chrome Frame. Google Docs and YouTube are also on board, and Gmail and Google Calendar will soon support Chrome Frame as both services begin to drop support for older browsers.
If you’d like users to see your site via Chrome Frame — provided they have it installed — all you need to do is add a head tag to your pages:
Alternately, you can had an HTTP header using your Apache (or similar) webserver configuration. See the video below for more info on making sure your site triggers Google Chrome Frame when it’s available.
Previously only available as a “developer preview,” the new version of Chrome Frame has been updated to beta status. Chrome Frame’s underlying code has also been updated to match the Chrome 5 browser, which means Chrome Frame can now handle more HTML5 features like better audio and video playback, Canvas animations, geolocation, Web Workers, WebSocket connections and offline databases.
Chrome Frame now also integrates with IE more closely, meaning that the add-on now works with IE’s InPrivate browsing mode, and that clearing cookies and cache in IE will now also clear out the same elements in Chrome Frame.
If you’re stuck with IE 6 at work, but you want to see the latest and greatest the web has to offer, Chrome Frame makes for a decent solution. The only downside to Chrome Frame is that it will only be triggered on websites that have explicitly enabled it using a special meta tag. Of course, all of Google’s sites are on that short list, so you can at least experience some cool cutting-edge stuff like drag-and-drop in Gmail, geolocation in Google Maps, or real-time communication in Google Wave.
Despite the fact that Chrome Frame does not just take over IE, Google’s add-on is not without some degree of controversy. Back when Chrome Frame was first announced, Mozilla’s vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, warned against the idea, arguing that the Chrome plug-in for IE muddles the user’s understanding of browser security, and in the end will create more confusion and little benefit.
So far those fears haven’t come to pass, but now that Chrome Frame is a beta release, it may begin to see wider use.
Shaver’s main argument — that simply telling users to switch browsers is far better strategy — is still undeniably the best solution. After all, if you’re savvy enough to know about and install Chrome Frame, you’re most likely savvy enough to just upgrade IE or switch to a better browser. But even the most recent version of Internet Explorer, version 8, doesn’t have the same level of capability as Chrome, and Chrome Frame gives IE users an opportunity to play around on the bleeding edge.
Also, there’s a subset of users who need IE 6 for legacy corporate intranets and applications, but also need to interact with today’s web. Given that several Google services — like Google Apps and Google Reader — no longer support IE 6, the day is fast approaching where Chrome Frame will be the only option for those still locked into IE 6 who want to use the newest web apps.
The stable versions of Google’s Chrome web browser have been updated, including some important security fixes for users of the Windows version.
The new features included in these updates have been available in the beta channel for some time (see our earlier review), but if you’ve been sticking with the stable channel now you to can enjoy the new toys.
While the new features mentioned above only apply to the Windows version of Chrome, Google did recently release some bug fixes and features upgrades to the development channel of the Mac version of Chrome.
Chrome for Mac recently gained a much-improved bookmarks panel that makes it easier to save and edit bookmarks than the previous, virtually non-existent bookmark manager. The Chrome for Mac development team cautions that the new bookmark manager still has bugs, but if you’re desperate for better bookmark tools, it’s definitely worth switching to the development channel.
Google has also released an update for its controversialChrome Frame, which injects Chrome’s rendering engine into Internet Explorer. The latest version of Chrome Frame is more tightly integrated with IE — it now uses IE’s built-in pop-up blocker — and fixes a number of crashing bugs. You can grab the latest version of the Chrome Frame download page.