One way NOT to solve IE6 compatibility issues – a view of Google Chrome Frame

Posted by: Matt Tags: , Posted date:

Google Chrome Frame

I like to think of myself as being browser agnostic. I’ve been technologically agnostic since back in the days when I was a software developer (not a good one, mind you). We always took the approach to pick the right platform for a given project rather than figure out how to do the project in our ‘standard’ platform. It was great for the customer and great for learning new skills.

That concept has stayed with me in every tech position I’ve held over the past 18 or so years, and was a large part of the driving force behind starting Browsium. I firmly believe web applications should be built for the browser you want, not the browser you have to run. If you are stuck on IE6, you shouldn’t have to be limited to building IE6-dependent applications. The web is so much more powerful than that. Browsium Ion is designed to free you to embrace web capabilities based on business need and ‘future proof’ your legacy applications.

Along those lines I applaud the Google Chrome team for building Chrome Frame. It’s an impressive technical accomplishment (as we well know) to put one browser inside another. Yes, Chrome Frame isn’t new by any stretch, but given a recent spate of questions we’ve fielded recently it seemed like a good time to talk about it.

While I like the idea of what Chrome Frame can offer, it’s not a solution to the problem that Browsium solves – making legacy web applications work in modern browsers. Chrome Frame does the opposite. It’s designed to enable Google services, and other modern web applications, in legacy browsers (or at least just inside old versions of IE).

The goal here is to get rid of IE6 (and IE7) completely. Even being browser agnostic doesn’t make me want to keep them around. I spent a fair amount of my time working with Microsoft trying to get customers off IE6. It was really difficult because customers needed to keep their business-critical applications running after a browser upgrade. Chrome Frame doesn’t do that, and other solutions that attempt to do this are insanely expensive and complex. That’s why I started Browsium – to make this migration cost effective and easy.

In addition to not moving companies off IE6, Chrome Frame is really not geared for an enterprise deployment. Is has some Group Policy settings, but nothing compared to the 1500+ you can get in IE. One of the things you can’t control is how Chrome Frame is invoked. By design, you invoke Chrome Frame through a META tag and there is no way to lock down that option to a specific site. Many customers have asked about using Chrome Frame for some new application they want to run. Without the ability to prevent ANY site on the Internet from invoking it, their security teams have shut down the effort. I’m not saying that Chrome Frame is insecure; I’ll leave that to Microsoft and Google to fight out. Lacking a mechanism to prevent it from being invoked doesn’t seem like a good idea. We took that into account when developing Ion to be invoked only based on preconfigured and defined Rules.

A related issue is the lack of Zone-like functionality, but that’s not just an issue with Chrome Frame. Only IE has the Zone concept and I think it’s great. The idea that web applications were all created equally is silly. Maybe the consumer web has the same settings requirements, but certainly the enterprise web has different needs. That’s why Zones make sense. If you can only load applications using one settings configuration, then you’ll be faced with the least common denominator problem as you build out new applications.

And again, with Chrome Frame you’ll still be running IE6. Which means you’ll still be on Windows XP. It’s late 2012 and Windows 8 is already here – if XP didn’t feel old before it certainly does now. XP was a great operating system in its day and was a workhorse for enterprise for a long time. But it’s about to go  out of support (in 592 days if you’re watching the clock). Why would you make a move that doesn’t get you off XP? You don’t need to go to Windows 8 (sorry Microsoft) but Windows 7 should be the real goal here.

If you want to solve your IE6 compatibility problems, let’s solve them. Don’t sweep them under the rug and deal with the lump later. Ion is designed to help you get off IE6 today and deploy IE8 or IE9 so that you can innovate properly and deliver the new applications services that your business needs. Don’t be caught watching the clock as time expires on Windows XP.


P.S. I meant what I said about being browser agnostic. My marketing people will scream bloody murder at me now, but I’ll have more to say on that in the coming months … watch this space.

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