Google Chrome Frame – Webkit in IE

Steve Ballmer has, in the past, stated that he would be open to the idea of Internet Explorer dropping the Trident rendering engine in favor of the open-source Webkit. I, for one, would love it if this happens – Trident is the bane of web developers around the world. Simply stated, it is holding the web back from it’s true potential. Well, it looks like Google has done the work for Microsoft, with Google Chrome Frame for IE.

Essentially, Chrome Frame replaces all of the guts of IE with Chrome technologies. This extends beyond the rendering engine – it replaces the JavaScript engine as well, and whatever other parts needed swapping out. Using Chrome Frame, IE can immediately start to render HTML5 (canvas, audio, video), CSS3, and more. Even better, under Chrome Frame, all IE rendering quirks would cease to be an issue. Oh yeah, and it also makes IE faster – ten times faster for JavaScript performance, even in this beta stage.

To utilize Chrome Frame on your site, all that is needed is a single meta tag – if Chrome Frame is installed, IE will use it, and if not, the page will still render. This is very nice, unobtrusive behavior indeed.

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">

Google developed Chrome Frame primarily for their upcoming Google Wave communication software. It probably became quickly evident to Google that they would never be able to offer the rich functionality that Wave requires under IE. I would expect that the release of Chrome Frame is ruffling some feathers at Microsoft – Google seems to be getting on the nerves of some it’s major tech competitors lately using similar tactics. Still, it’s hard to see how consumers lose with this move – to some extent, it’s the best thing that could happen to Internet Explorer.

Chrome, Freaking Chrome

Google Chrome

I recently wrote of the merits of Opera 9.5, which is a truly pleasant browsing experience. However, and somewhat unexpectedly, Google just yesterday released a new browser, Chrome, which I believe changes the game.

Being the browser junkie that I am, I downloaded it within hours of being released. From Google’s own admission, Chrome is less about innovation in the features arena, and more on the browsing experience as a whole. There’s even a beautiful web comic dedicated to explaining the more geeky aspects of the browsing experience, produced by the kind gents at Google

The first thing I noticed after starting up Chrome for the first time is that it renders fast. As in FAST fast. I mean, this thing screams. The rendering of Javascript is a big thing in browsers nowadays. In one geeky corner, you can see the web developers that have been working on Prototype and jQuery, wishing and waiting for a Javascript engine that doesn’t disappoint them – these guys are celebrating today, as all of us should be.

Javascript, as non-natively OO as it is and all, has been shown to be by in large the wonder of the web. Want interactive features across the web? Better know how to write Javascript. Want flashy stuff without requiring the user to install add-ons? Look at Javascript. AJAX? Yeah, that’s all Javascript. The browser has been okay on the side of Javascript – it’s always been supported by just about every browser out there, but it’s never been at the forefront. With Google Chrome (and the pending release of the new Firefox Javascript engine), it’s the star, and with great results. The web has never been faster of more responsive.

Javascript aside, Chrome seems more leveraged to provide an online platform. I can certainly see motive behind Google to go that route – it suits their overall goals remarkably. Making the web responsive enough to replace the desktop only plays into the pocket of Google, and providing the browsing experience to so is definitely in their interest. At the same time, the entire thing is open-sourced, which has never been a bad thing. The tools to work with the browser aren’t really there yet, but knowing Google I think we’re going down the right road. As a web developer, I know I’m probably being biased and unfair and all, but I just have to say thanks.