Sometimes you almost feel sorry for Microsoft. First Bill Gates, in the first edition of his book, The Road Ahead, in 1995, dismissed the Internet as a fad. Then, after realizing it might turn out to be a bit more than that (and rushing out a new, corrected edition of the book), he focused Microsoft’s energies on adapting to the Internet. And despite some inconveniences, like an anti-trust trial, Microsoft managed to see off Netscape, the maker of the only competitive Web browser. No sooner had they relaxed, though, than the Mozilla organization introduced the Firefox browser (originally called Phoenix, then Firebird), and began to eat some of Microsoft’s lunch.
Google has recently upped the ante by announcing the introduction of a browser “plug-in” for Internet Explorer, called Chrome Frame, that it hopes can give users a more up-to=date browsing capability:
In essence, the plug-in replaces most of the user-visible parts of Internet Explorer with corresponding pieces of Chrome. One motivation is to allow organizations who cannot quickly change to a non-Microsoft browser, because of legacy applications that depend on Internet Explorer’s “features”, to have access to more modern Web functionality. The plug-in, like Chrome itself, will be open source, so users have the opportunity to do their own tweaking.
The set-up of Frame allows a Web page designer to add a tag to the page’s HTML to indicate that it can take advantage of new features that Frame provides. The user can also specify that Frame be used to render a particular page, instead of the normal Internet Explorer rendering code. Potentially, the Chrome plug-in could be something of a Trojan horse to help Google get more ensconced on the Windows desktop.
Microsoft countered the Google announcement more or less immediate;ly by issuing a statement that using the Chrome plug-in might make Internet Explorer less secure. Considering IE’s security record, this might seem to some of us like carrying coal to Newcastle. It is true that plug-ins can be problematic from a security perspective, not least because there is often not an effective means of ensuring that users apply security updates when they are released. But Microsoft cited no specific issues; I doubt that was because they just forgot.
The Chrome Frame plug-in will work with Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, and 8, running under Windows XP or Vista. The currently available version is intended for testing and development, and is not recommended for sensitive or production applications. You can find more information and downloads here.