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Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.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