Chrome Frame – dirty trick to gain market share?

Big news in the web-development world. Could Chrome Frame be the death knoll of IE6?

The primary company I work for has an old style Java app that was designed specifically for IE6. It has since been opened up to Firefox as well, but other browsers are still locked out. In one sense I am excited about Chrome Frame because it might mean we get to drop official support for IE6 sooner. In another sense I feel like Google might be playing a dirty underhanded trick to force sites that support IE to also support Chrome.

The scenario I envision goes like this: A unsuspecting and not-so-tech-savvy person is prompted on some site far far away to install the Chrome Frame plugin for IE. Seems innocent enough, so they do, and it works! all is well. Then at some point not so long after that they sign in to our application with no problem. Our browser sniffer doesn’t see anything amiss, just another IE user. Then potentially things start not working like they are used to. (i don’t know if this would happen, we don’t test Chrome/webkit since we don’t support it…). they get stuck enough or frustrated enough that they call our support staff for help, and after some time spent trying to understand what is happening we have to say either, “sorry, we don’t support IE with plugins like that,” or, “sorry, that is a bug and we need to fix it.” Both options make us look bad to paying customers.

Google’s motivations supposedly include making life easy for developers, and I think for the most part Chrome Frame will achieve that. It is just one more reason that I won’t bother to test/support old IE browsers a number of sites I work on. However, I think the whole, “we want to help developers”, and, “we want to advance the web” is more marketing spin. Not to say it’s untrue that they want those things too, but Google is a company and companies usually have less altruistic motives.

Because of Google Frame companies like the one I work for are now forced to consider if we will support Chrome. That means for companies who have sites that were built specifically for IE, life just got harder. Ultimately supporting Chrome would be a good thing since it would basically mean a much more standards compliant site – something that is definitely one of the companies goals. The answer to the question, ‘should we support Chrome?’ should be yes, It already was in fact, but before it was less of a priority. The benefit that Google gets for pushing this shift of priorities is that the one more hurdle to Chrome gaining browser share is dismantled. Greater market share in their browser arena means a more prominent platform for their services, and that affects the bottom line. This perspective makes Google seem less likable to me. On the other hand, Google really is advancing web standards which opens the doors that much wider to any other standards compliant browsers, and I do like that…

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