Microsoft IE 8 Architect Speaks Out

Chris Wilson, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 platform architect, says interoperability is key for the Web browser.

Microsoft announced the availability of the first public beta release of its new Internet Explorer 8 browser March 5 at its MIX 08 conference in Las Vegas. At the event, Chris Wilson, platform architect of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft to discuss some of the core topics around the new release and where Microsoft is heading with it.

How important is interoperability to you [Microsoft] with IE 8?

I think that it's really been growing for quite some time in importance, particularly because there are so many implementations of the Web standards platform. A lot of times people think of Web standards like HTML and CSS [Cascading Style Sheets] and JavaScript even, and they look at Microsoft and they think IE is really the only place that cares about that. And there are quite a few implementations of those standards within Microsoft in various tools, various software products, servers, everything.

So even within our own company, we have to have interop. And I think that expanding that outward, particularly around devices, is a really interesting place to be. And in the future, I think that's going to be a big market. So it's something that we do feel pretty strongly about.

Of the things that were announced at MIX regarding IE 8, what do you think was the standout for developers?

I think that probably the big standout for developers is the commitment on our part to doing a complete implementation of CSS 2.1 and doing it interoperably. And interoperably isn't just, "Well we started with the spec." It's that we're actually contributing a ton of test cases. We're trying to make sure that we all resolve the ambiguities of the specification as well so that we're all sharing the right implementation. And that's a big effort, to not only do it but get it right at a very detailed level and try to share all of our tests and that sort of thing.

There are certainly a lot of other things. The opportunities with Activities and WebSlices are huge. The work that we're doing in the object model and the work that we're doing around performance are going to have a big effect on the market and on the industry. But certainly the big commitment for me right now is the new layout engine and CSS.

Do you have a timeline for JavaScript 2 support in the browser?

JavaScript 2 is definitely still under development at this time, and that's something we've been looking at and participating in pretty directly recently. We really want to make sure that the right sets of problems are getting addressed in that standard. And I think that the focus of that is going to be pretty important.

I don't have a real time frame. I don't have a timeline for implementation, particularly since I don't really know what it is at this point. But certainly it's an area we're really interested in. I think seeing how much software code has moved to JavaScript as the runtime is pretty important.

So do you guys have input on the standard?

Absolutely. We participate in the ECMAScript group and have been offering feedback to it. We've been doing a bunch of work, too, about JavaScript 1.3 and that sort of thing.

What's the auto-deployment plan for IE 8?

Right now I think our goal is to build the best IE 8 we can. And we really haven't even begun to figure out what the deployment's going to look like and how to deploy it.

So no idea on how long after it's released that it'll be pushed to everybody?

No. I think we're seeing a lot of good uptake of IE 7 and I think that will probably hold over in IE 8 and we'll get some good move-across there, but I don't think we have committed plan at this point.