Google Chrome Frame for Internet Explorer is a terrible idea

The latest numbers for web browser use show that Internet Explorer is down nearly ten more points.  Internet Explorer 6 use has waned quite a bit, but, for Google, it is not enough on both accounts.  Wanting to shore up its new web offerings and, presumably, its browser, Google has developed something called the Google Chrome Frame for Internet Explorer.  What this does is make the Chrome browser available as a plug in.  The reason, according to Google, is that they don’t want to be bothered trying to get its Google Wave to work with the industry leading browser. 

Google has made its intentions known that it wants to dethrone Microsoft…and any other company that markets desktop software and operating systems.  That includes Apple, though not right away it seems.  This very public slap in the face of Microsoft has the potential to be somewhat dangerous and confusing to IE users.  Mozilla has actually come out on Microsoft’s side, sort of.

Mozilla released several statements, all of which make more sense than what Microsoft has stated.  The Mozilla statements, from Mike Shaver and Mitchell Baker point out (and it is surprising that Microsoft did not state this) that the plug in could prevent browser features from functioning correctly.  For example, it would keep such innovations as the web accelerators and add ins that work on the content area from working.  Worse, it could prevent the security features from working.  And in IE 7 and 8, security is far better than most of the other browsers.

Microsoft, instead of pointing out what Mozilla pointed out, released a statement that just bad mouths the plug in without really saying why.  It did make one statement that made sense: "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 attack area for malware and malicious scripts. This is not a risk we would recommend our friends and families take”.

Mozilla has its own reasons for seemingly siding with Microsoft:  Firefox.  This same thing could very easily happen to them.  In fact, it could happen to any browser that supports a plug in model.  It also skews the numbers.  If Chrome ran in Firefox, than anytime a user browsed a site that invoked the plug in, then Chrome becomes the browser and NOT Firefox, or whatever browser is actually hosting the plug-in.

So, for anyone who was applauding Google for ‘doing the right thing’ by replacing the IE rendering engine with Chrome, think about it carefully.  Google could do this for any browser, including Firefox and Safari.  And what’s to prevent Google from implementing a ‘phone home’ feature in the plug in.  Do you want Google collecting this type of data as well?  And if Google is successful with this plug in, other companies will certainly follow.  I think this is a terrible idea and hope that no one else adopts it.

(Lest you think I am defending IE, I’m not.  I use Firefox and Safari now.  IE 8 is just too unreliable.  I love its features except for the randomness of actually rendering a page.)


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