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Mozilla VP: Chrome Frame is the wrong answer

It's better to get users to upgrade their browsers than to hybridize Microsoft IE and Google Chrome, Mozilla's engineering chief says.

Mozilla and Microsoft don't always see eye to eye when it comes to browser technology, but they agree broadly on one thing: thumbs down for Google Chrome Frame.

Chrome Frame is a plug-in that puts Google's browser engine under the hood of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and Google argues that it can modernize IE versions 6, 7, and 8 with faster page loading and JavaScript performance. It kicks in only on Web pages that Web developers have labeled with a specific tag. After Google announced it, Microsoft criticized it as creating a potentially increased risk to browsing security.

Google Wave is one site that suggests IE users install Google Chrome Frame.
Google Wave is one site that suggests IE users install Google Chrome Frame. Google

Mike Shaver, vice president of engineering for Firefox backer Mozilla, published a different concern in a blog post Monday night.

"I certainly share that longing for a Web in which the vast majority of Web users enjoy the performance and capabilities we see in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera. Unfortunately, I don't think that Chrome Frame gets us closer to that Web," Shaver said.

Specifically, Shaver said Chrome Frame can disable IE features and muddle users' understanding of Web security matters. And users of the reviled IE 6 browser, he added, often won't be able to run Chrome Frame anyway because their computer is locked down to prohibit changes or lacks sufficient power in the first place.

"As a side effect, the user's understanding of the Web's security model and the behavior of their browser is seriously hindered by delegating the choice of software to the developers of individual sites they visit. It is a problem that we have seen repeatedly with other stack plug-ins like Flash, Silverlight and Java, and not one that I think we need to see replayed again under the banner of HTML5," he said.

Shaver's advice is to rely on that ages-old technique: an upgrade suggestion on the Web site.

"It would be better for the Web if developers who want to use the Chrome Frame snippet simply told users that their site worked better in Chrome and instructed them on how to install it," Shaver said. "The user would be educated about the benefits of an alternate browser, would understand better the choice they were making, and the kudos for Chrome's performance would accrue to Google rather than to Microsoft."