Can’t upgrade Internet Explorer 6 but still want to enjoy the wonders of the [modern] internet? Grab Google Chrome Frame (IE addon).

Internet Explorer 6 is the epitome of all things evil on the internet. Released in 2001, when the web was primitive compared to what it is todays, IE6 lacks the support for many new web development technologies. If you ever discuss IE6 with a web developer you may be subject to a few profane words. dotTech it self has not escaped the IE6 curse: just recently I had to do some simple hacks to make dotTech more IE6 friendly.

Now IE6 being so crappy is not really the problem; it is almost 10 years old and there are two newer version of IE out there which improve web compatibility so it is hard to blame Microsoft for the technological mishaps of IE6. The problem is IE6 is still widely used by many people around the globe. Case in point: IE6 is the second most popular browser used by dotTechies (!!!!).While some people, who use IE6, cannot upgrade because of hardware limitations on their computers, research shows most people are limited to IE6 by their workplace and/or work related activities. To put it simply, corporations are making the public suffer because they don’t want to spend the big bucks to upgrade their outdated information systems. Well Google is aiming to change that.

Google has recently released an IE addon (works on IE 6/7/8) called Google Chrome Frame. According to Google, “Google Chrome Frame brings open web technologies and a speedy JavaScript engine to Internet Explorer”. In other words, Google Chrome Frame turns IE into… Google Chrome without ever forcing the user to ditch IE6 (think of IE Frame if you have Firefox to better understand this addon).

Google Chrome Frame works in a simple, and un-disruptive, way. Web developers who believe Google Chrome Frame will generate a page much better than IE simply insert a meta tag in their pages. When an IE user, who has Google Chrome Frame installed, comes across that page, the page is automatically loaded using Google Chrome Frame instead of IE; if an IE user does not have Google Chrome Frame, he/she is given a message to consider downloading Google Chrome Frame. This developer-based approach to using Google Chrome Frame ensures Google Chrome Frame is undisruptive to those users that use IE6 for legacy systems which need IE6 to work (i.e. if a developer knows his/her website, web service, or other technology only works in IE6, he/she will not incorporate Google Chrome Frame into their website) but still enables the user to experience the pleasures of modern web technologies when applicable. This video explains it a lot better:

I don’t personally have IE6 (is it possible to even download now?) but reading around, I am told Google Chrome Frame has little to no effect on computer resource usage. In other words, you won’t see any significant increase in RAM or CPU usage when using Google Chrome Frame vs when using IE6 without it. Cool.

Now of course Microsoft does not appreciate Google planting trees in its backyard. Microsoft has publicly discouraged users from installed GFE because “Google Chrome Frame makes IE more insecure”. To backup up its claim, Microsoft has pointed to the vast security improvements made to IE8; and in their defense, Microsoft is right: IE8 is a very good browser on its own. However I believe GFE is better suited for IE6 (and to an extent IE7) users anyway; if you are using IE8 you probably don’t need/want GFE. So, if you are an IE6 (and IE7) user, I highly suggest you give GFE a try.

You can grab Google Chrome Frame from the following link:

Supported OS: Windows XP and above only

Google Chrome Frame homepage [download page]

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17 comments

  1. Rob

    I have been toying with SeaMonkey (older brother of FF).
    It appears to be less memory hungry than FF.
    It unfortunately does not save as .MHT and the unMHT extension is not available for SeaMonkey.
    It occurred to me that I could live with the Complete web page (with the horrible accompanying …._files folder) if I could -
    - Zip the two of them, and
    - Later open them from within the zip’s contents form.
    (Just two clicks to view an archive is very tolerable)

    7Zip will allow mw to go in and double click the .htm file, but does not load the contents of the …_files folder
    Is anyone aware of a zip manager that is smart enough to realize that there is an accompanying ….._files folder ?

    Rob (Robert)
    PS I could also use Chrome (which gets me back on topic)

  2. Ozzie

    Greetings all! Kind of a bit off the topic, but there is a really handy Firefox add-on called IE Tab that allows you to open pages that can only be viewed with Internet Explorer within the browser itself. Just another reason why I love FF. Like Ashraf, we have noticed similar stats on our org’s website. I imagine this is because a lot of people log on from their workplaces, where IE is still mostly used. However, the boss of an NGO I worked at a few years ago instructed us to ditch IE and use FF instead – for security reasons. But there is so much more to love about it. The available FF customisations are incredible. Ok, it can be a memory hog when there are multiple tabs open (but SpeedyFox – as reviewed on this website recently – seems to work for a lot of people) but I couldn’t imagine ever not using it. So many tools right at my fingertips, arranged just the way I like. Why would you use anything else?

  3. Rob

    I tried IE7 and IE8 and they were ok (good), however for those of us that image our drives, and occasionally have to restore to another PC, they should be avoided like the plague (if you are using XP). The reason being that the XP Repair that is required when ‘moving’ your image to new hardware, gets ruined because XP Repair cannot handle any IE later than 6.
    So I have been using FF, Opera and CometBird.

    When my Tabs are getting numerous (which is all the time), I occasionally like to fire up IE6 instead of my other browsers (as they take much time and resources to fire up).
    Now my IE6 is stuffed because I finally relented and let flippin Foxit install it’s Toolbar. I did this as I wanted Foxit to enable PDF editing/marking.
    To keep Foxit’s Toolbar out of my way (and not ruin FF etc), I let it install into IE6. That was a mistake, as now anytime I try to do anything in IE6, it throws me to my other default browser.

    That gets me to my couple of questions re Google Chrome Frame -
    - Does it run in IE6, or is it a separate browser that just uses the IE engine ?
    EG Could I manually start GCF and use it as a browser (And would it show sites not marked for GCF ?)
    - If it just uses the engine, I would be tempted to try it as my quickie low resource browser. You might ask why don’t I use Chrome, which brings me to my next questions.
    - Can it save as MHT (I don’t use Chrome, because it cannot save as MHT)
    - Does it bring Tabs to IE6 ?

    Rob(Robert)

  4. Kraal FictionWriter

    When did I give up IE?

    Can’t remember…definitely during 6, though. I never gave IE 7 or 8 a chance.

    Interesting find, though. Why is Microsoft concerned about the add-on if it’s for an outdated browser though?

  5. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @JJSlider: Although I agree it would be nice to add in a feature to manually execute GFE, I disagree with the “badly executed” point you bring up. In fact, as I stated in my post, I believe that is the advantage of GFE. Think about it; the purpose of GFE is to make it easier on IE users to experience the wonders of web standards not available on IE yet still stick with IE since they need it for whatever. If they wanted to have GFE on full time, why not just grab Google Chrome? If GFE was used full time, IE users would have to manually disable it for websites which they need to use IE and that will make GFE more of a pain than useful.

    Also, I disagree on your [implied] point of since IE6 is insecure why make it more insecure. I agree IE6 in insecure… so will using GFE really make it more insecure? Even Microsoft, when they claimed GFE is insecure, used IE8 as their proof not IE6.

    @Janet: As of right now it only works on websites tagged for it. However the manually enabling of GFE may be added in future versions.

    It is true GFE is in infancy so not that many developers have put it into use yet. However just wait a few months and I bet it will be widely used if Google does not screw it up and fixes the bugs.

  6. Janet

    I was VERY interested to learn that IE6 is the second most popular browser used by dotTechies!!!! What was the first?

    Does GCF work only on sites that are tagged for it and developed specifically for it? Or is this just another one of its many (?) other advantages? The video and the forum made it sound like developers are in the diaper stage of using it, so not many sites will be relevant for quite a while. Also people reported all sorts of problems (e.g.,with cookies, etc.).

  7. JJSlider

    Everyone is talking about Google Chrome Frame since it was announced by Google.

    The problem is, it’s a good idea badly executed. Websites need to insert a small HTML code on their site to tell IE6 to use Google Chrome Frame, and if it isn’t on the site it won’t be used by default – and since we don’t know what sites are using it now, we don’t know how useful it is right now.

    Also, Microsoft claims Google Chrome Frame is a huge security risk. While they tend to use scaremongering tactics often to hurt competitors and this may just be another, IE6 is insecure anyway, so would you take the risk?

    To think I’m so reliant on Google myself…