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?
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.
So do you guys have input on the standard?
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.
Silverlight in IE?
What are your plans for implementing SVG [Scalable Vector Graphics] in IE?
I think that vector graphics is certainly an important area that we want to take on in the future. When we started planning what we could do in IE 8, we looked at what the most critical specs were and what the more critical standards were for interoperability, and we took on the ones that we thought we could do very well and in a very detailed way. And I think that we’re shipping the right set of things in IE 8. Certainly SVG is going to be very interesting moving forward.
Will you be providing a more coherent “undo” stack?
We’ve actually started looking at editing as an area that could really be leveraged a lot more than it has been. There have been some interesting statements around that by a few people in the Web development community as well. I think we are going to look at doing better support in that area. How comprehensive that gets with undo. … If you could do things like adding object model transforms and object model manipulations, too, that is kind of a deep research area right now, I think. It’s hard to tell how far you could go with that and how well you could do it if you took it to that level of detail.
What kind of help will you provide for developers around the contentEditable system?
I think that the idea of contentEditable is still a really great one. I think it’s a fantastic thing that we introduced back in IE 4. And I think that some of the other browsers are starting to pick up on that now. I know at least one of them implements contentEditable. It’s getting added in HTML 5 in some fashion. I think that getting that sort of rich editing capability as a control or capability in the interoperable standard would be a great thing. And we certainly want to encourage that and be right there in sharing it in our implementation, too.
Will Silverlight become part of IE at some point?
I don’t know that there’s really an answer to that question. Silverlight as it is is a platform that shares some characteristics and interoperates with the Web standards platform, but it is in some ways a separate platform with separate scenarios that it’s trying to hit. Whether it would be delivered in IE or not is something that I’m not really up on. I don’t really know.
For performance sake, will there be any JIT-ing [Just-In-Time compiling] in IE 8?
What would be some of the alternatives?
There are a lot of other investments we could make around performance, and if our resources would be better spent there, that might be where we would start. Certainly longer term, I think JIT-ing or some form of either compile on the fly or even offering pre-compile capabilities would be interesting if we could get that across implementations.