Aimed at enhancing the experience of Internet Explorer users, Chrome Frame may speed up your browser. But apart from business ethics, it raises security concerns. By Jagdeep Worah
Google's Chrome Frame, the latest offering from the search giant launched earlier this month, has drawn more brickbats than bouquets. Designed as a plug-in for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, it is meant to improve the speed and efficiency of IE users.
Google's idea is that Chrome Frame offers web developers the chance to use cutting-edge technologies IE doesn't support, as well as giving them the chance to apply web standards that IE currently ignores. Prospects like that appeal to designers and programmers, who spend a lot of time coming up with tricks and workarounds to overcome some of Microsoft's deficiencies.
But for once, both Microsoft and its rival Mozilla, which runs the increasingly popular open-source browser Firefox, have united in slamming Google Chrome. Independent commentators have variously labelled it as a cuckoo's egg carefully placed in Microsoft's nest by its biggest rival; or a browser that has been slipped under IE's hood.
An official statement from Microsoft said, "Given the security issues with plug-ins in general, and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plug-in has doubled the attach area for malware and malicious scripts." Microsoft says its latest explorer version, IE 8, is much safer than Chrome Frame.
This is probably true; but then most users continue to rely on earlier versions of IE (6 and 7), and this majority is what Chrome Frame is aiming at. Rather than going head-to-head with IE8 - which has seriously enhanced its security features - Google's real target looks to be the older versions of IE.
According to recent figures, IE is used by around two-thirds of all web users - but just 17 per cent of them have opted for IE8 so far. An astonishing 25 per cent continue to use the antiquated IE 6, though Microsoft itself has admitted that it is full of security holes. So bad is IE6's reputation that the general manager for Internet Explorer, Amy Barzdukas, recently told The Guardian that the company would prefer if everybody moved away from using it as soon as possible.