Microsoft considers adopting WebKit for Internet Explorer

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Addressing a developer conference in Sydney Australia, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the idea of using WebKit as the rendering engine within its web browser was "interesting" and added "we may look at that."



Ballmer chanted his hallmark line "developers, developers, developers" to engage participants at the Power to Developers event, but was apparently caught off guard when a student attendee posed a question about Microsoft's own internal development efforts.



The student put Ballmer on the hot seat by asking, "Why is IE still relevant and why is it worth spending money on rendering engines when there are open source ones available that can respond to changes in Web standards faster?"



"That's cheeky, but a good question, but cheeky," Ballmer replied, according to a report by TechWorld. Ballmer explained that Microsoft would need to consider the future of the browser and determine if there is any lack of innovation for the company to capitalize upon with 'proprietary extensions that broaden its functionality.'



"There will still be a lot of proprietary innovation in the browser itself so we may need to have a rendering service," Ballmer said, adding, "Open source is interesting. Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8."



Ballmer also admitted the delays in moving from IE 6 to IE 7 during the development of Vista under the Longhorn project. "But I don't what to go there," he said.



While Microsoft rapidly developed IE up to version six in 2001, new innovation stalled after the apparent death of the rival Netscape browser between 2000 and 2001.



The lull in Microsoft's browser efforts afforded Mozilla the opportunity to release and refine the Netscape code into what became Firefox in 2003. During the same period, KDE shipped the fast and lean KHTML browser engine, a project Apple built upon to create WebKit, the rendering engine behind Safari 1.0, also released in 2003. That web browser renaissance spurred Microsoft to deliver a new version of IE in 2006.



WebKit has subsequently been chosen by a number of developers to serve as the foundation for their web browsers and other web related tools. That includes Nokia's mobile browser, Google's new Chrome, and of course the mobile Safari browser used by Apple's iPhone.



Embracing WebKit as the basis for new generations of IE would enable Microsoft to benefit from its standards compliance and raw speed, while still enabling the software giant to extend its features with proprietary extensions, just as Apple's Safari browser adds unique features such as bookmark management and syncing, Dashboard Widget clipping, and SnapBack.



It would also give Microsoft a functional mobile browser to replace Windows Mobile's Pocket IE, a poorly regarded and nearly unusable product based on a very old version of Microsoft's proprietary web engine.



Adopting the WebKit rendering engine in IE would also dramatically simplify the work currently required of web developers, who have to test their code to work properly against both web standards and the quirky behaviors of the various versions of IE. Additionally, WebKit would give Microsoft a top performing JavaScript engine necessary for handling the next generation of web apps, such as those based on SproutCore.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 60
    About time, I'm sick of always having to include ridiculous amounts of extra code in a website to cater to IE's ass backwards web standards.
  • Reply 2 of 60
    ksecksec Posts: 1,512member
    I think they dont have much of a choice, Buy Opera and get a very good browser. Or use Webkit and start building around it.



    i dont think Desktop browsers matter much. Those who dont like it will use Firefox anyway. But their IE engine is so &*^ that just dont work on Mobile device.
  • Reply 3 of 60
    Should MS use webkit? Yes



    Will they? Certainly not in IE 8, but possibly in IE 9.
  • Reply 4 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mariofreak85 View Post


    Should MS use webkit? Yes



    Will they? Certainly not in IE 8, but possibly in IE 9.



    That sounds like in the next 2 or 3 years judging for the timeline above.
  • Reply 5 of 60
    slewisslewis Posts: 2,080member
    Null.
  • Reply 6 of 60
    ipeonipeon Posts: 1,122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Ballmer explained that Microsoft would need to consider the future of the browser and determine if there is any lack of innovation for the company to capitalize upon with 'proprietary extensions that broaden its functionality.'







    How clueless can this guy be?
  • Reply 7 of 60
    Oh god, this would be a wet dream come true. Never gonna happen though.
  • Reply 8 of 60
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,296member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "That's cheeky, but a good question, but cheeky,"



    Translation:

    "We don't want to admit that we do not have the ability to develop a better browser and use a competing package from our main competitor who has shown to do the job better, faster, and cheaper. But we're willing to spend a 1/3 of a billion dollars to show tell the world we know better!"
  • Reply 9 of 60
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    If MS actually did this it would be the first intelligent move MS has made in a long time. It's free, fast, lightweight, and standards compliant. It would even take back some of the marketshare taken from FF... but I think their pride will not prevent from actually doing it.
  • Reply 10 of 60
    ipilyaipilya Posts: 185member
    The IE team was dismantled except for a core team called IE SE - which translates to "IE Sustained Engineering". What this means... is a product is dead and the SE team simply puts out hot-fixes for any pertinent issues. This all happened during that great legal battle that Microsoft had with the States.



    I know this first hand because I was a part of the great IE team.. and was asked to join the IE SE team... i know this for a fact... and it is possible to verify this information. However... it is not easy since MS would not willingly come forth with the info since it would cast a rather bleak cloud on their "honesty" at the time of the trials as well as after.



    -Pilya
  • Reply 11 of 60
    Don't get too excited about this. While it is probably a great idea for Microsoft, and if done properly it could make life easier for everyone remember Microsoft's history. When they decide to "incorporate" something, they start with a shared platform, then hack the crap out of it until they are no longer compatible and keep pushing it until the original is dead.



    This would simply be standard operating procedure for Microsoft.
  • Reply 12 of 60
    This story is amazingly inaccurate. Though I can't quote exactly what Steve said, I was present at the talk and he in no way implied that Webkit would ever be used for IE. He did say it was interesting, but he also firmly stated that a proprietary closed-source engine is the solution MS has chosen and they are going to stick with it. The main reason is so that they can implement proprietary extensions before they are standards -- something Google is doing with Chrome, before you get all anti-Microsoft (Gears, for example, they even mention this in their delightful little comic).
  • Reply 13 of 60
    Oh great, now we have to test our code in:

    Safari

    Mac Firefox 2 & 3

    Windows Firefox 2 & 3

    IE 6 & 7 (8 to come)

    Chrome

    IE Webkit



    That's 10 browsers, if not more.
  • Reply 14 of 60
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nizmow View Post


    The main reason is so that they can implement proprietary extensions before they are standards.



    There is no reason why you can't use a standards compliant browser engine and then add your own extensions to it.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post


    Oh great, now we have to test our code in:

    [...]

    That's 10 browsers, if not more.



    It doesn't matter how many browsers there are if they all conform to web standards the word for web developers becomes considerably easier.
  • Reply 15 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    There is no reason why you can't use a standards compliant browser engine and then add your own extensions to it.



    IE8 is standards compliant, I assume you mean open source, which is something else altogether.



    Regardless, I suppose you're right. It's probably more work, but Google have done it with Chrome. It might be harder if they don't want their extensions to be open sourced as well -- sometimes open source licensing can be quite dangerous.
  • Reply 16 of 60
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nizmow View Post


    IE8 is standards compliant, I assume you mean open source, which is something else altogether.



    Regardless, I suppose you're right. It's probably more work, but Google have done it with Chrome. It might be harder if they don't want their extensions to be open sourced as well -- sometimes open source licensing can be quite dangerous.



    From what I've read, IE8 is far from standards complaint. They only recently changed their stance of defaulting to standards compliant, thereby not requiring websites to add a code to turn on standards compliance in IE8. They might be saying they are standards complaint but they are far from the level of compliance that Gecko, Presto and Webkit engines are.
    A lot of those are new so we really can't expect them to be implemented right away, while many are pretty pointless additions and will probably never get included, looking at the Acid3 test—which I believe only tests for standards before 2004—shows that IE8 is still woefully behind the other popular browsers.
  • Reply 17 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    From what I've read, IE8 is far from standards complaint. They only recently changed their stance of defaulting to standards compliant, thereby not requiring websites to add a code to turn on standards compliance in IE8. They might be saying they are standards complaint but they are far from the level of compliance that Gecko, Presto and Webkit engines are.
    A lot of those are new so we really can't expect them to be implemented right away, while many are pretty pointless additions and will probably never get included, looking at the Acid3 test?which I believe only tests for standards before 2004?shows that IE8 is still woefully behind the other popular browsers.



    The majority of these are standards yet to be released. Acid3 includes CSS3 tests, for example -- this is not final yet. So basically all of those links are pointless.



    I know it's not ENTIRELY standards compliant -- no browser is -- but we're just getting a bit picky here.



    Regardless, I didn't come in here to defend IE8, I don't even have it installed. I just came to point out that this story is extremely misleading and largely nonsense.
  • Reply 18 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nizmow View Post


    The majority of these are standards yet to be released. Acid3 includes CSS3 tests, for example -- this is not final yet. So basically all of those links are pointless.



    I know it's not ENTIRELY standards compliant -- no browser is -- but we're just getting a bit picky here.



    Regardless, I didn't come in here to defend IE8, I don't even have it installed. I just came to point out that this story is extremely misleading and largely nonsense.



    IE8 doesn't even support a lot of CSS2 standards.
  • Reply 19 of 60
    Webkit! Webkit! Webkit! and Gecko!!!! No more Trident, bury Trident!!!!



    Well this is very good, finally Microsoft is toning down their big ego. By having only 3 rendering engine on the web (WebKit, Gecko, Presto), it will make it much easier to develop and debug websites cause all of those 3 rendering engines is cross OS compatible (Webkit - Safari (Mac, Win), Chrome (Win, Future-Mac) ), (Gecko - Firefox (All OS Compatible), (Presto - Opera (Mac, Win). Trident is IE only and only run on Windows, so developing on the Mac is much harder cause you must switch to Windows to debug for IE browsers.



    Bedsides among all those 4 rendering engine, Trident is the worst of em all, the other 3 is doing quite well in rendering, only need a few tweaks.
  • Reply 20 of 60
    erunnoerunno Posts: 225member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    It doesn't matter how many browsers there are if they all conform to web standards the word for web developers becomes considerably easier.



    Actually yes, you'd still have to test your site with each browser to check for implementation bugs. Even if most of the browsers used WebKit it would be different ports based on different revisions. Some even don't use the same JavaScript engine. As long as not all WebKit implementations are bug-for-bug compatible web designers will still have to test each browser individually. Hopefully it will make browser-specific modifications less necessary though.
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