Microsoft still isn't talking specifics in terms of what it plans to deliver as part of the next version of Internet Explorer, IE 8.0. But at the Mix '07 conference in Las Vegas, Chris Wilson, platform architect of Internet Explorer, did share some general directions the team is taking with its next release.
In his "IE Past Present and Future" talk on May 1, Wilson told the standing-room-only audience that he wasn't going to show an IE 8.0 feature list, as he "wasn't allowed to."
However, Wilson did tell attendees that Microsoft is planning to require Web site authors to "opt-in" to standards mode when developing IE 8.0 sites.
"Five years ago, no one in the top 200 Web sites was using standards," Wilson said. "Today it is half of the top 200 Web pages."
Wilson acknowledged that he wasn't sure exactly what form this kind of opt-in would take. But asking authors to opt in will "give us freedom to do some great things," he said. By giving Microsoft permission to make IE 8.0 more standards-complaint, authors will take responsibility for breaking pages.
Wilson said to expect Microsoft to be investing across layout, object model and Ajax development fronts in IE 8.0. Specificially, Wilson said Microsoft is investing in making IE 8.0 more compliant with CSS 2.1 layout standards. Microsoft also is working to make the IE 8.0 object model more interoperable with that used by other browsers, and is looking to provide more client-side application programming interfaces (APIs) to support local storage for mash-ups, Wilson said.
Microsoft is planning to make tweaks to IE that will allow developers to more easily add extensions to its browser, Wilson said. He said Microsoft acknowledged that extensions are powerful but potentially "scary."
He also said to expect Microsoft to continue to invest heavily in advancing its Web development toolbar with the next version of IE.
Wilson reiterated that Microsoft continues to see security as its No. 1 challenge with IE 8.0.
Wilson also noted that Microsoft isn't planning to wait another five years to release its next version of IE (as it did when the company waited five years between IE 6 and IE 7). Last year Microsoft officials said they expected to be able to release new versions of IE every 12 to 18 months, but Wilson said an every-two-year schedule was looking more likely.
Wilson said that a number of people have suggested Microsoft release new versions of IE in service packs or as part of the company's monthly security updates, but that Microsoft has ruled that out, as it would make IE too much of a "moving target."
If Microsoft holds to that schedule, IE 8.0 should ship some time in 2008. In January 2007, Microsoft began gathering feedback from developers on what kinds of features and functionality they'd like to see in IE in the future.
Wilson spent most of his talk focusing on the compatibility vs. standards-compliance connundrum which Microsoft has wrestling with its current and future IE releases. With a half-billion IE users out there, Microsoft takes its responsibility seriously to not break sites without solid reasons, Wilson told attendees.
Any feedback for the IE team as it moves forward with its next release?