Some initial performance tests are in and Google’s Chrome Frame plugin is posting benchmarks 10 times the speed of IE 8 rendering.

I’m already seeing a wave of announcements from Web 2.0 sites that they’re going to support the Chrome Frame plug-in. Many of them had written IE 6/7 off and either didn’t bother trying to support it at all or actively blocked it from their sites. They plan to switch to telling IE users to install the plug-in.

There are conflicting statements over whether or not the plug-in can be installed without administrative rights, e.g., on a locked-down IT computer. It probably can’t. And Microsoft has already responded, saying that the plug-in is a security risk and that IE 8 is far more secure then every other browser. Whether you believe that statement to be true or not, IE 6, and to a lesser extent, IE 7 are not secure. For those platforms the plug-in should raise the security level significantly.

Finally, many people asked why any of this was necessary at all, given that Chrome is free, easily available, easily downloadable, etc. The answer is that the plug-in lowers the bar of acceptance. Users who have no idea what a browser even is, can click on a link to download and install the Chrome Frame plug-in. They keep the same look-and-feel, the same bookmarks, same cookies, etc. There’s no switching paradigms, switching programs or switching UIs.

But since the plug-in has to be activated by the web site programmers using an HTML meta tag, the plug-in is mainly of interest to Web 2.0 developers. They now have the option to push users onto a “modern” rendering engine with standards compatibility and high-performance JavaScript. And that’s why I expect the uptake to be rapid on leading-edge Web 2.0 sites.

Keep in mind though that this is still an experimental plug-in. By all accounts it’s very stable, but there have been reports of it crashing the browser. So if you download and install it, use it with care.