About Internet Explorer 8 – interview with Pete LePage

Interview with Pete LePage from IE team (April 3rd, 2009).

There is also Czech translation available. Můžete si přečíst také český překlad.

Pete in the beginning can you introduce yourself? What is your position in IE team?

My name is Pete LePage and I am one of the product managers on the IE team. I am product manager who deals with developers and pretty much only with developers.

I sweared to tell the story and a lot of people laughed it. When my mum calls me and says: „I don’t like the home button in IE“. I told my mum to call Microsoft and deal with that some other way. But when the developer calls and says: „I am trying to build a website and this is not rendering like I have expected.“ Those are the people I really want. Make sure that their feedback is getting to the IE team and we’re get the right information back to them.

What did you do before? Did you worked at Microsoft or some other companies?

I’ve been in IE team for last 2 and half years. Before that I was a tester on the Visual Web Developer tool in Visual Studio and I was a tester on the Design Surface for Visual Web Developer. So I have been playing in the Web my entire time I am at Microsoft.

And I’ve actually been working on browsers even before that. I worked at a company which build an embedded browser.

How many developers works on IE?

That is a question we do not really have a good answer to, because when you actually look at what is IE, because it’s part of the operating system, because there is the layout component, there is the networking stack. We know that there is a lot of people working on the IE team.

Pete LePage

The IE team was disbanded in the past. Now there is a new team. Are there some people who worked on the IE6 and before?

Yes, absolutely. Chris Wilson is great example. Chris has been on IE team, I think, since IE 2. And there is a lot of people who have stayed with the IE team for the long time. And they will continue to do that. They see a lot of really cool staff happening on the web and with IE.

A lot of web designers are asking why IE doesn’t support XHTML with the proper MIME type. What is the problem?

The biggest thing for us is to support that properly and it will require a lot of work. It is not that we do not want to do that work. But we wanna make sure, that when we do it, we do it absolutely right. We haven’t had a chance, because we have been working on a lot of other staff.

Do you have any idea when you will take this step? IE9?

It’s a great question. Right now we have been so focused on IE8, on making sure, that we get IE8 right. We will figure next steps soon.

There are some differences between IE and other browsers concerning standards, e.g. event model. In the future, do you plan to make it the same as in the other browsers?

The biggest thing right now is we’ve been focusing on IE8. We haven’t thought about what we’re gonna do on future. So I cannot say yes, we’re gonna do this.

At the same time one of the great things that we have done in IE8, is we have provided mutable DOM prototypes. And mutable DOM prototypes allow you to override the event model within the DOM, so if you want it to, you could actually fix that yourself.

We have talked to a lot of developers and the event model was one of the number one things, that came up. But they said, getting mutable DOM prototype suites more to them, because with mutable DOM prototypes they could fix the event model on their own.

There are a lot of changes in IE8. There were some rumours, that you have rewritten completely the basic parts of the IE. Is it true?

We wrote from scratch a new layout rendering engine. It’s not that we fixed IE7 rendering engine, we actually wrote the new one from scratch.

And old rendering modes in IE8, they have been also rewritten from scratch or is it an old code?

The IE7 rendering mode in IE8 is still the same, we haven’t changed it at all. It was important to us to maintain compatibility, so we didn’t change the IE7 mode. We just added the new, more standards compliant IE8 mode.

Well, it’s a lot of work.

Yes, it was. And that is why we have been able to make so much progress on the standard implementation.

There were also some rumours that IE8 will support microformats (also because Bill Gates said on MIX06: „We need microformats.“), but it doesn’t. Did you consider microformats support or not?

In the early planning stages those were one of the things that we were looking at. But again getting the browser right now, we cannot do everything in one version.

If you try to choose which standard will you support, what is the process?

That is good question. For us in the IE8 process it came down to looking at what stuff is relatively well baked. Because we don’t want to implement something that is gonna change. We wanna make sure, that the stuff that we’re choosing are things that developers want and ask for, e.g. mutable DOM prototypes, the DOM store, thinks that developers want and need.

IE8 passed the Acid2 test. But there is a new Acid3 test, that is very hard, with things like SVG support, downloadable fonts supports etc. Will you work on Acid3?

Well any of the Acid tests are tests that were written by people who say: „Hey we want these features.“ There are not really a test of a specific set of standards. There are test of whole bunch of staff.

What we do is we look at what developers want, what they telling us their want. We don’t talk just to one developer who says: „Hey this is what I want.“ We talk to all sorts of developers. So will we pass Acid3 IE8? No, we don’t.

In the past IE worked on Macintosh and even before on Unix. Other browsers today work on more platforms. Do you think IE will work also on some other platform than Windows?

No, I think we’re gonna stay on Windows as our primary platform.

There is now tough competition between the web technologies and some other technologies like Silverlight or Flash. What do you think, which one will win in the web applications field?

I don’t think anyone is gonna win. Because I don’t think there is something to win.

What I think, it is really great about web and Silverlight, Flash, any of those rich web technologies, the ability for you to be able to build applications that scale.

So if you wanna go and build just a plain simple HTML web page, that has no interactivity and put there some information, you can do that. If you wanna build a rich AJAX application, you can do that within the browser. You wanna go build Silverlight or Flash? You can do that. All of those, it’s a nice continuum you can choose which one you wanna do.

Thank you for the interview.

Martin Hassman was interviewing Pete LePage during MIX09.

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