Chris Wilson, Platform Architect for Internet Explorer at Microsoft, has revealed in a presentation at Web Directions South 2007 that the next version of IE will have a newly-written layout engine, as opposed to the fixes patched on for IE7.
What we’re actually focused on right now is specifically the layout engine… the part that figures out how to lay out text content, borders, etc. on the screen, and be able to manage text flow in general. […] We realised that, you know, ‘Wow—we are Microsoft. There are a lot of people here with layout expertise. There are a lot of people who really know how to do layout right.’ […] We needed to unchain those people, and really allow them to do some really incredible things.
When I look at the other toolkits out there I think that on the amount of work that they’ve put in to completing some standards work or taking out a bunch of different standards that we haven’t gotten to yet, I think they’ve done some great things; I don’t think it’s so great that the only answer really should be: Let’s go take that engine.
I wasn’t totally convinced by all of his answers, however; his reasons for not being able to run multiple versions of IE side by side didn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that third parties have put together scripts to do just that; and when asked why Microsoft are keeping developers in the dark over plans for the next release, he claimed that MS didn’t like to promise features that wouldn’t make it into the final build.
Well, all that would take is a strong disclaimer that features were only experimental and not guaranteed for launch. As I said before, even if full Betas were not released, at least an Alpha or two of the layout engine with a basic UI would be welcome.
Still, it’s an interesting 20-minute interview even if a little light on detail.