Posts from September, 2009

Internet Explorer – With the right plugin, it’s not so bad!

Sep 22

I’m not a big fan of Internet Explorer (which is probably as nice as I can say it).  With its lack of support for new technologies, various inconsistencies with other browsers and it’s own versions, and somewhat unstable rendering/processing of web pages, it’s no wonder Firefox, Safari, and Chrome are quickly luring Internet Explorer’s users away.  However, there’s still a segment of users out there that use Internet Explorer for a few reasons:  it’s what they’re used to, they have no need to upgrade/use another browser, their IT department scoffs at anything new/not paid for, or there’s still a game out there running on ActiveX and they can’t part with.  Support for this segment of users has hindered new development in web technologies for years, and has resulted in countless hacks and workarounds to get Internet Explorer on the same page as other browsers.

As HTML5 and faster Javascript engines become common place, it’s becoming increasingly tempting for developers to want to abandon Internet Explorer users and simply provide them with an upgrade path away from Microsoft.  However, there might just be a compromise that lets developers use the newest technologies, while still keeping Internet Explorer users within their comfort zone.  This compromise is Google Chrome Frame.  This new Google project aims to take the Google Chrome browser, and place it inside the Internet Explorer shell as a plugin.  Much like how Flash works within Internet Explorer, so does Chrome Frame.  If a user installs Chrome Frame (which is very simple and didn’t require a restart for IE8), they can view the web as if nothing was different.  However, if they visit a page that requires newer technologies, a developer can put a <meta /> tag in the page that triggers Chrome Frame.  The user will not notice any difference in the way the browser works (other than new features and faster rendering/processing).

This could just be the best solution for newer sites that wish to take advantage of new technologies Internet Explorer will be slow to adopt (if they even adopt the new technologies at all).  New features such as the <audio /> and <canvas /> tags will make the web much more friendly and consistent to develop for.  A faster, more modern Javascript engine means new APIs such as Geocoding and better user interface features such as animations and drag and drop support.  With these new features already starting to show up in Google Chrome, why wait for Internet Explorer to catch up, when they’re just a plugin away.