SBP Blog

Crossing blades in cross-browser compatibility issues

Nov 12, 2009 by Doina

It's been only a couple of weeks since Google's last attempt at publicly admonishing (let's not use the harsher word "humiliate") Microsoft's baby, Internet Explorer. Well, as they say, all is fair in love and web. :) Since there is no "mommy" to go to when peers start hitting each other, the problem is left in the hands of players. And Microsoft is certainly an old player at this game.

The Google Chrome Frame is a browser plug-in that confers access to Chrome's rendering engine to IE users. Which basically means that once this plug-in is installed in IE, all IE does is look like IE. It will not act like IE. It will render web pages in a Chrome-like fashion, meaning faster and better, or so tests have shown, at least for IE 7 and IE8.

Chrome's rendering technology includes support for the latest web standards like HTML 5, and a really fast JavaScript engine which gets apps to work faster and be more responsive. IE does not include such things. So the Chrome Frame brings these things we all like into IE, which Microsoft doesn't like, as their more recent replies have stated. "With Internet Explorer 8, we made significant advancements and updates to make the browser safer for our customers. Given the security issues with plugins in general and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plug-in has doubled the attack area for malware and malicious scripts. This is not a risk we would recommend our friends and families take.", a Microsoft spokesperson declared for Ars Technica. Which is not quite true, because, first of all, there aren't that many malware attacks for Google Chrome (it's simply not profitable for hackers to target browsers with small market shares), and there are even fewer of them targeted at the IE + Chrome Frame combo, and these in turn can hardly pass Chrome security and IE's several layers of security. So actually the Chrome Frame makes IE safer for users.

As a result, Microsoft revealed some technical novelties concerning the future IE9 last Wednesday at PDC, including specific improvements in JavaScript, web standards, and graphics technology. As their blog post at MSDN states (, the new IE9 will have a significantly faster JavaScript engine, richer support for Web standards like CSS 3, and it will use Direct2D and DirectWrite technology for graphics and text rendering. So it appears that the Google Chrome Frame brought a significant reaction from MS, finally convincing them that IE badly needed a more aggressive improvement policy since IE6. MS might have won the browser war (partly due to the Windows OS bundle) but it is clear that they now have to defend their position as leaders on the market.

Which only leads to better and more reliable web browsers that users and developers alike can benefit from. On the other hand, we've got the IE tab working in Firefox, a plug-in developed years ago by Hong Jen Yee, a Taiwanese medical student with a passion for software. As a result users with an IE dependency started to slowly shake it off, as the smart plug-in allowed them to browse web pages solely developed for IE, within Firefox. All in all, an unplanned success for Firefox (so why doesn't Microsoft look tenderly upon Google's Chrome Frame?).

The meta tag used to install the Chrome Frame in IE even allows developers to specify when a page should be displayed using the Chrome rendering engine instead of IE's Trident engine, an approach that will ensure the use of the Chrome engine on an actual need basis. Web applications that require sole compatibility with an IE version will not be hindered by the plug-in.

Mozilla has also had a similar experiment, the ScreamingMonkey project, in which they tried to help non-Mozilla browsers understand JavaScript 2 (through Tamarin – a Java Script engine), starting with IE. Other similar projects were deployed, but none of them had the scope of action of Google's Chrome Frame. Because the code of the plug-in is open source, including the V8 JavaScript engine, support for Canvas, SVG and more APIs from HTML 5, Google is thus ensuring more feedback and even help with development.

It remains to be seen whether users will adopt to a significant extent Google's plug-in or not, but as the Flash plug-in succeeded in practically moving the Web forward, maybe the Chrome Frame too will bring relevant changes in web optimization, at least in what concerns the future IE development policies.

Tags: Future  Google  Microsoft  Web 


Amy commented on 6/10/2010 2:33:02 AM

Uninstall firefox and make sure you got the latest version of firefox. this would be one best option to fix any errors.

Dan Moldoveanu commented on 6/17/2010 9:46:21 AM

Hi Michelle,

Please see below some advices for your problems with Firefox:

* Use a register cleaner to clean up your registries (try Ccleaner - is free and it's doing miracles with computers :))
* Try to update your Firefox or reinstall your Firefox version
* Clean up all temporary files
* Verify if the crashes are caused by some kind of addons or installed toolbars

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