During our years working with Microsoft, we were always struck by the value of Zone behaviors available in Internet Explorer. The idea just makes sense – not all content is the same, so why treat it the same way? The ability to define a set of application configuration parameters to suit specific scenarios is both logical for application compatibility (you can avoid conflicting settings) as well as security (don’t expose more surface area than needed).
Neither Firefox nor Chrome has offered this feature. They have always supported one configuration and that’s it. They can’t differentiate content location for websites, meaning they can’t use different profiles in various scenarios. We’ve been baffled by the lack of support for Zones in Firefox and Chrome and we’re not alone in wanting to see this capability added. Rather than wait around for someone at those companies to build support for Zones, we went ahead and did it for them. Instead of bolting Zone support onto Chrome and Firefox specifically, we designed Catalyst with a more flexible model where Zone behavior can be extended to nearly any type of application, let alone various browsers.
As Gabe Knuth pointed out in his article, Catalyst enables you to control a multiple browser scenario such that Internet Explorer is used for the Intranet Zone and use Chrome for accessing the Internet. When we designed Catalyst this was a core scenario, especially for organizations still on Windows XP, where they are limited to legacy versions of Internet Explorer.
In the case of IE6, it’s all about security – no one should browse the web with IE6. Ever. In the case where organizations have upgraded and are running IE8, it’s less about security and more about compatibility. However, security remains a factor given that IE8 is several years old and lacks the critical improvements in the SmartScreen Filter and the anti-malware features found in modern versions of Internet Explorer. But compatibility is a real concern given Google’s recently announced plan to drop support for IE8. This is just the beginning of the end for IE8. Once a major site drops support for a particular browser, others quickly follow to help control web development costs.
Given these issues, organizations need the ability to control browser behaviors at the Zone level. Catalyst Zone support is based on Windows Security Zone determination, so organizations that have already invested in using those controls can easily leverage what they have in place today. Simply create a Catalyst Rule to match that Zone determination and load the browser of your choice.
We’ll have more blog posts coming about Catalyst, including one on how to not only load the browser of your choice for a given Security Zone, but how to use Catalyst to load a specific configuration (or browser profile) to give even more granular control over the browser configuration being used to load specific content.
If you haven’t already tried Catalyst Beta, you can get it today by filling out our web form and verifying your email address. Then send us your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.