With ChromeFrame can we consider HTML5 just another browser plugin?

It’s generally agreed that HTML5 today has a roughly similar feature set to plugin based RIA technologies like Silverlight and Flex. This feature set is available today in cutting edge browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Opera.


However we rarely get to make that comparison. The biggest barrier to HTML5 adoption is the significant portion of users, particularly in the Enterprise, that are still using older browsers such as IE6-8. At this point we either have the option to attempt to enhance these browsers using shims and polyfills (they can actually do a surprising amount but it’s messy none the less), or just wait until everyone upgrades.


Not a great situation if you know you’ll have to be supporting IE users.


Another option that I don’t hear talked about much is ChromeFrame. A Google produced IE plugin which seamlessly embeds the Chrome browser (V8 js engine and all…) so that when a site intentionally opts into it, it’ll take over and render the page. This is great as the biggest reason for Enterprise’s not upgrading to newer browsers is the wealth of older web based applications requiring IE. With ChromeFrame, they can carry on using their standard browser and then it’s only applications that specifically ask for being rendered by Chrome that get upgraded.


This could make HTML5 a very similar proposition to Silverlight or Flex for Enterprise development. But there’s a big difference – with Silverlight or Flex if you try to run them on a machine or device that doesn’t support the runtime, you simply don’t have a chance in hell. With HTML5, you’ve got a fighting chance of supporting older browsers and other devices like iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids. Isn’t that kind of compelling?


Of course even with the best available HTML5 application runtimes, today there’s still significant challenges delivering large HTML5 applications. Tooling and frameworks are the first things to come to mind but that’s probably fit for another post.


So I wonder why ChromeFrame isn’t talked about more. Could it be that Enterprises prefer more established browser plugins like Silverlight or Flash to the rather niche ChromeFrame?

Originally posted on Thoughts from David Padbury.


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