Advanced Support, from Diverse Audiences

Google did an interesting thing yesterday… they extended the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser to dramatic degree, offering Google’s own Chrome browser as an alternative renderer within Internet Explorer’s windows. Here’s where to download the “early-stage open source plug-in”, and many opinions are collected at Techmeme.

I haven’t investigated the hack’s details, and know nowhere near enough to speculate how the project might evolve. But it’s significant, to me, for being the first comprehensive attempt to address bringing the “HTML5″ ideas to realworld audiences.

A person’s browser becomes their habit — they’re loathe to give up surfing efficiency, not quite willing to risk the expense of exploring a new interface. The global surfing public has diverse choice in browsers, and Microsoft Internet Explorer has proven to be a very strong habit for many.

Google Chrome Frame is (from what I understand) respectful of the current user experience… people don’t need to risk their existing browser habits and efficiencies, yet can still explore something new.

I like that. It’s like the Adobe Flash Player… a capability which can be invoked across a wide range of HTML engines… an invisible addition, uniting browser choices.

There’s a wry aspect to the news too, of course… in 140 characters: “So Google’s using a browser plugin, to advance WhatWG’s ‘HTML5′, which tries to do what plugins already do, coz plugins are bad. Is that it?” Seemed to have struck a chord.

There’s no need to seek direct conflict. People have been improving browsers for fifteen years, and while growth is slow, it is steady. No need to bash plugins when announcing new feature sets.

Plugins enfranchise minority browsers… the De Facto Web is a more accessible scene than If Plugins Never Were. Objecting “because it is a Plug-in” is as empty a phrase as objecting “because it ‘IS’ proprietary.” No need to be a hater or a killer. It’s too weird to hear closedness coming from those evangelizing openness.

So, welcome Google, to the challenge of cross-browser plugins — improving the capability of diverse consumer installations, by cooperating with their choice of browser configurations. Glad you’re here, it’s a little less lonely now. ;-)

(Hmm, matter of fact, why isn’t there much talk yet about making an Ogg Theora set of plugins? Seems to make sense, so that sites which prefer opensource codecs can accommodate diverse audiences without making content developers sweat the multi-encoding. Here’s a request from May 2009: “If you’re actually seeking browser support for patent-unencumbered codecs, expanded local storage, drawing engines and such, then why aren’t you making plugins for other browsers? If it’s because ‘plugins are not first-class citizens in the browser’, then [please] improve your plugin support and cross-browser homogeneity so that they are.” Why shouldn’t “open codec” people make cross-browser plugins too?)

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