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Google to put Chrome Frame to pasture in 2014

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After four years Google is retiring Chrome Frame, its browser plug-in that embeds the Chrome HTML rendering and JavaScript engines inside Internet Explorer.

"It's unusual to build something and hope it eventually makes itself obsolete," Chrome engineer Robert Shield wrote in a blog post on Thursday, "but in this case we see the retirement of Chrome Frame as evidence of just how far the web has come."

Google first launched Chrome Frame in September 2009, around the same time it was betting that Google Wave – a complex browser-based chat app that relied heavily on web standards – would revolutionize online communications.

Wave wouldn't run on IE, which at the time led the industry in browser market share. So Google gave users a way to use IE and Chrome at the same time, by cramming Chrome into an IE tab.

At the time, Microsoft lambasted the move, claiming it would make IE inherently less secure.

"Given the security issues with plug-ins in general and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plug-in has doubled the attack area for malware and malicious scripts," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "This is not a risk we would recommend our friends and families take."

Security experts doubted the risk, especially given how notoriously vulnerable IE was already. And Jeremiah Grossman of WhiteHat Security pooh-poohed the idea of Chrome-specific malware to The Reg, citing its "insignificant market share."

These days, of course, many metrics show Chrome as the leading web browser. And although IE's share has declined, even IE 10 performs far better with respect to web standards than did IE 8 in 2009.

"Today, most people are using modern browsers that support the majority of the latest web technologies," Shield wrote. "Better yet, the usage of legacy browsers is declining significantly and newer browsers stay up to date automatically, which means the leading edge has become mainstream."

For these reasons, Shield said, Google has decided that Chrome Frame is no longer necessary. As an alternative, he recommends you install Chrome or some other standards-compliant browser – or, if you still need to run certain web apps on an older browser, Shield recommends you use Chrome's Legacy Browser Support, which can be used to maintain a list of sites that should launch in a secondary browser, such as (shudder) IE 6.

Google says it will continue to maintain Chrome Frame throughout 2013, but it will cease all support and updates for it in January 2014. ®

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