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14 June 2013, 12:26

The end for Google's Chrome Frame

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Chrome Frame logo

Google has announced that Chrome Frame will no longer be supported or updated from January 2014. The plugin adds a Chrome engine to versions 6 to 9 of Internet Explorer. When a requested web page sends a special <meta> header, Internet Explorer will implicitly switch to the Chrome-driven display mode.

The discontinuation of Chrome Frame means that Google will have one less Chrome platform to maintain where security updates are concerned. Similarly, users who switch to a modern version of Internet Explorer or make the jump to Chrome will reduce the attack surface of their browser; using Chrome Frame, they were effectively exposing themselves to possible security vulnerabilities from two browser code bases at once.

The fate of Chrome Frame is similar to that of Google Gears; between 2007 and 2011, Google Gears also aimed to provide web browsers with modern web interfaces, until it was eventually no longer required. Google released the first version of its Chrome in a Microsoft skin in 2009, when browser market shares were still distributed very differently. Since then, Chrome's usage figures have surpassed those of Internet Explorer in many places, and the obsolete older versions of IE are gradually on their way out.

Similarly, the original reason for developing Chrome Frame is no longer relevant: Google's intention was to make the HTML5-based Wave teamwork service available to Internet Explorer users. Unsuccessfully however – after being launched with much bravado, Wave crash-landed a bit more than a year later.

Google recommends that private users switch to a modern browser such as Chrome, and that the administrators of corporate networks in which older versions of Internet Explorer are still in frequent use consider Chrome for Business. An FAQ explains the (very minimal) consequences of the decision for web developers.


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