IE 6 Frame Plugin

From the moment I heard about Google Chrome Frame, the idea bothered me. Here is the situation:

  • Many big companies still run IE 6
  • These companies depend on legacy web apps that only work in IE 6
  • Because so many companies are stuck on IE 6, everybody else has trouble moving forward with modern web sites

The Google Fix

Google Chrome Frame runs inside of IE. It allows IE users to access modern web sites, so long as those sites include this tag:

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

This is a clever workaround and is probably the best Google can do.

What Bothers Me

The workaround is backwards. It means 99% of your web usage remains stuck in old fashioned IE 6, treating modern web sites as special cases. Instead, I propose that Microsoft do exactly the opposite of what Google did.

Microsoft should create an IE 6 Frame. It would work like this:

  • Everybody installs a modern web browser. IE 8, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.
  • Companies with ancient, mission critical IE 6 proprietary web sites could install the IE 6 Frame plugin.
  • Most web sites would use the modern browser. Old web sites — ones that only work in IE 6 — would run in the IE 6 Frame plugin.

I believe this approach would be far more beneficial. You want the old crappy stuff to be the “special case” that runs in a plugin.

Chrome Process Notes

I ran through a quick and dirty comparison of Firefox 2.0.0.16 and Chrome 0.2.149.27, running on Windows Vista. I opened each browser side-by-side and added one tab at a time. As I added each tab, I noted the memory usage. I viewed these web pages:

Tab Page 1 google.com 2 cnn.com 3 digg.com 4 reader.google.com 5 stuffthathappens.com/blog 6 amazon.com

Memory Usage

I obtained these numbers from Vista’s task manager. Vista has many different “memory usage” statistics, and I have no idea what each implies. I do not claim these numbers mean anything other than…here are a bunch of numbers.

Here are the numbers from Vista’s “Working Set” column. Note there are multiple numbers for Chrome because each new tab opens one — or more — new processes.

Tabs    Firefox   Chrome 1       51176     11756 24164 2       78120     11756 12992 24852 25260 3       94084     11756 22080 24860 32304 23932 4       102992     6164 11756 22088 24860 20856 40040 23960 5       116008     6164 18820 11756 22088 24860 20860 43628 24868 6       134360     6164 18820 11756 22088 24616 24860 20444 49192 25624 Dropping back down to 1 tab: 1       111240     11760 35856 

Note that Vista’s “Private Working Set” reports different, and lower, numbers:

Tabs    Firefox   Chrome 6       111476    1096 10792 4080 13852 16792 16656 12368 31608 18564

I should also note that many numbers were constantly changing, so these are all approximations. Vista’s task manager also shows many other columns:

  • Peak Working Set
  • Working Set Delta
  • Commit Size
  • Paged Pool
  • Non-paged Pool
  • etc…

Lessons Learned?

Not much! I’m no Vista programmer, so I don’t know how to interpret these numbers. Here is what I am comfortable saying:

  • As I added more tabs, Firefox slowed down. Chrome did not.
  • Each new Chrome tab adds one or more processes. It looks like the number of processes depends on what content is on the web site.
  • You’d need more detailed memory analysis tools to truly understand what’s going on.
  • As I closed tabs, Chrome stops the processes within a few seconds, freeing up memory. Firefox seemed to hang on to memory for a longer time. Again, these are just initial impressions with very limited tools at my disposal.

Chrome is fast, I’m writing this post using it, and it seems to work just fine. In the end, I’m happy to see another competitor because this puts more heat on the other browsers to improve performance and compatibility. This is the kind of browser war was can all be happy with.