Google announced Google Chrome Frame. A plug-in for Internet Explorer that completely replaces the IE renderer and JavaScript engine (IE 6, 7 and 8). So everything you see in the browser window is rendered by Chrome. Google plans to puts links to the plug-in on their web apps when an IE user without the plug-in browses to one of the apps (Google Wave is the canonical example).

The intent of the plug-in is for those users who can’t (or won’t) simply replace IE with the Chrome browser. Users on corporate machines, those who rely on IE deployments, etc. It’s not completely seamless. Web pages have to be written to work with the plug-in, by placing this line at the top of the page:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">

That line will trigger the plug-in to activate and render the page content.

This means that IE-specific sites (Windows Update) will still work with the plug-in installed. There are also methods to determine whether the browser has the plug-in installed so user’s can be reliably prompted to install it.

This is still a work-in-progress so printing of Chrome-rendered pages doesn’t work and files downloaded don’t show any user interface (though they are still downloaded).

Browser resource usage is increased when using the plug-in because you’re effectively running two browsers simultaneously. This won’t be a solution for netbooks but should be unnoticeable on most business desktops and laptops.

For some time now I’ve wondered whether working on the IE team was demoralizing. They keep putting out mediocre release after mediocre release. They release a mobile IE version for the Zune HD and performance tests show it to be several orders of magnitude slower then other mobile browsers. Now this. It almost makes you feel for those guys.