Last June Google announced on
their Chromium Blog
that they will be putting Chrome Frame out to pasture
as of January 2014.

Don’t feel badly if you haven’t heard of Chrome Frame. It’s
a plug-in for Internet Explorer which lets users display certain web pages via
Chrome components such as the JavaScript engine. One purpose of Frame was to
bring better speed and performance to older versions of Internet Explorer which
some companies might have been forced to use for legacy purposes, such as
internal sites which only display properly in IE 6 (Frame also works on newer IE
releases, however, demonstrating its versatility). Another purpose was to allow
developers to use more modern standards such as HTML5 within these outdated IE versions.
A third goal was obviously strategic: to get Chrome out there in people’s minds
and promote the browser even among those who were committed to using or
supporting alternatives.

Why is Google retiring Frame?

This is the interesting element to the equation. Google is
known for dropping products which have declining relevance or value, such as Reader,
Buzz, and Talk (in fact, the
list of retired Google products
is long and distinguished). This is simply
part of their overall plan to reduce clutter and stay focused. Google pointed
out in their announcement about Frame that “the usage of legacy browsers
is declining significantly” which shows there is less of a need for Frame.

However, just because something is considered legacy doesn’t
mean it automatically goes away. Witness the fact that although Microsoft
is retiring support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014,
Chrome
will be supported by Google on Windows XP at least until the end of 2015
.

Of course, Windows XP is vastly different from Internet
Explorer 6. I myself am working on an XP upgrade project involving software
produced by a major financial company which has yet to be fully ported to
Windows 7. I am sure I am not alone in these efforts and therefore suspect XP
will be around for a long while yet. After all, Jeff Brown of Lieberman
Technologies recently pointed out that almost 400 million
computers were still running XP
as of last month. Those aren’t going to
just go away next April. Since many Google services are accessed through the
browser and Chrome is the one they want users to work in, of course it makes
good business sense to facilitate its usage.

There is also the philosophical argument that some people
felt Frame was detrimental to progress because it allowed older browsers to
live longer. The statistics involving Internet Explorer 6 usage don’t seem to
support this concept, however, as that browser has largely crumbled and blown
away with the wind from many parts of the world, though not all. The
interesting site www.ie6countdown.com
indicates IE 6 possesses 4.6% of the worldwide browser share – just .2% here in
the United States!  Internet Explorer 6 does not possess a similar foundation
to XP, so it’s easy to see why Frame is getting tossed in favor of promoting
other efforts like Chrome on XP instead.


Chrome
will support Windows XP even if Microsoft won’t


Is there anything Frame users should do?

Google
says
“Probably not much. If
you don’t prompt your users to install Chrome Frame or opt-in to Chrome Frame,
no action necessary.” If it’s used at your organization you don’t have to
go around uninstalling it, though it might be a good idea to do so in order to
keep people’s browsers tidy (it can be uninstalled like any normal program).
Frame
will still continue to work after next January; it isn’t as if it will
uninstall itself and shut the lights on January 1st. So, if you are one of the
few who are stuck with an older browser and want to try Frame out, it’s still
available
. A better plan, however, would be to check out Google
Chrome for Business
which provides Legacy
Browser support
.

Legacy Browser support sort of reverses the equation; rather
than running Chrome elements within Internet Explorer you can run Chrome as
your primary browser and have it open specific sites in a legacy Chrome browser
so they will display properly. There is also an IE add-on which
will open required sites directly within the correct Internet Explorer version
if for some reason the first option isn’t viable. In either scenario Windows
group policies (if applicable) can be used to match the URLs with their
appropriate browser.

Another one bites the dust

I don’t expect to see too much gnashing of teeth as Frame
vanishes, but it’s interesting to see how Google decides which products to
maintain and which ones to drop. Some are outright failures,
others become obsolete (like Frame has) and yet more are replaced in favor of
something better, much the way Google Talk was sent packing to make way for
Hangouts. It’s all part of the evolution of technology in which the Darwinian “survival
of the fittest” concept eternally applies.

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