IE.Next to get a new layout engine

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

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.

The slides of the pre­sen­ta­tion are avail­able now, and in an inter­view with Sitepoint.com he explains a lit­tle more:

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. 

Answer­ing the ques­tion as to why don’t they sim­ply adopt a mod­ern stan­dards-com­pli­ant engine such as Gecko or Webkit, he said:

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.

5 comments on
“IE.Next to get a new layout engine”

  1. […] (Via Broken-Links) […]

  2. Peter, I’ve talked before (http://blogs.msdn.com/cwilso/archive/2006/02/01/522281.aspx) about the mul­ti­ple-ies-on-one-machine hacks. They work, to a point — but they’re not side-by-side inde­pen­dent IEs. They tend to share, for exam­ple, net­work­ing stacks; they also don’t have inde­pen­dent reg­istrys (so they share set­tings, his­to­ry, cache, etc. — which can be REALLY prob­lem­at­ic if those are upgrad­ed). Doing it right — so these things aren’t a prob­lem — is hard, not trivial.

  3. Hi Chris, thanks for tak­ing the time to answer. Obvi­ous­ly I have to cede to your knowl­edge on this one, as it’s some­thing your team have no doubt looked into many times. It just seems unnec­es­sar­i­ly com­pli­cat­ed that each ver­sion of IE requires its own inde­pen­dent machine to run efficiently.

  4. […] thing that’s cer­tain is that we’ll see a new lay­out engine, which is more com­pli­ant with CSS 2.1. Does this mean it will pass the Acid 2 test? Will any of the […]

  5. Does this mean it will pass the Acid 2 test?