My Tech Days Sessions: ADO.NET Data Services and Internet Explorer 8

I’m in Calgary right now at Microsoft’s new paid conference, Tech Days. Despite being a little critical of the event when I first heard about it, I was asked to speak in Calgary. I figured it would be a great opportunity to get a first-hand look at the event so that I can offer more constructive feedback for future editions of Tech Days, and besides, I love sharing what I know with others!

I did the first two presentations in the Web Developer track – a session on ADO.NET Data Services followed by an introduction to Internet Explorer 8 for developers. I think my presentations went well for the most part, despite a few glitches with the demos. Initial feedback from people in the audience was positive anyway! Here are a few resources.

Goin’ Up to the Data in the Sky: ADO.NET Data Services for Web Developers

Internet Explorer 8 for Developers: What You Need to Know

Thanks to everyone who came to the sessions – feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.

Also, thanks to John Bristowe and the team at Microsoft for the opportunity to be involved with Tech Days. I’m looking forward to the rest of the sessions!

WebKit inside Internet Explorer? No thanks

webkit Inside every web browser is something called a rendering engine. The browsers get most of the glory, but it’s actually the rendering engines that do the heavy lifting. Firefox uses Gecko, Opera uses Presto, Chrome and Safari use WebKit, and Internet Explorer uses Trident. There are a few others as well, but those are the main ones. Gecko and WebKit are open source, Presto and Trident are proprietary.

Much was made of the fact that Google decided to use WebKit inside Chrome instead of building yet another rendering engine. I agree that it was the right move. Should Microsoft follow suit and replace Trident with WebKit? Steve Ballmer made some interesting comments today on the topic:

"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."

That prompted more than a few people to wish for Ballmer’s comments to come true, including Steve Hodson who said:

This idea of IE switching over to using the WebKit engine is interesting on a couple levels. First this would put two main browsers on an equal footing as far as rendering ability which would make for a much easier development cycle. It would also make for a better browsing experience for the users as developers would no longer be forced to program against the vagaries of IE.

I hear that last point all the time and it drives me nuts. Yes, Internet Explorer 6 was a nightmare to code for. But that’s simply not the case for Internet Explorer 7 or the recent Internet Explorer 8 beta. At least not in my experience.

I’d hate to see Microsoft adopt WebKit, for a few reasons:

  • Competition is good, and WebKit needs worthy competitors to continue to push the boundaries.
  • There’s nothing wrong with Trident. Why throw away something that works well and is continually improving? And I’m not just talking about the version of Trident in IE8. Microsoft has had full support for things like contentEditable since IE6, something Mozilla/Gecko still hasn’t gotten right.
  • It’s not like the existing versions of Internet Explorer would magically disappear! This would be yet another browser/rendering engine combo that developers would need to test against.

And there are good reasons that Microsoft won’t adopt WebKit too, not the least of which is licensing. Backwards compatibility is a concern also.

It might sound appealing at first, but I don’t think it would be a good thing if all the major browsers used the same rendering engine.

Tell us about Internet Explorer 8!

Post ImageThe 72-hour conversation that Microsoft likes to call Mix is over tomorrow, and so far, there has been absolutely no news about Internet Explorer 8. As I like to say, the silence has been deafening! Oh there’s been lots of news about Silverlight (Colin has a number of great posts), but nothing about IE8. A quick search shows that Miguel de Icaza (among others, undoubtedly) noticed this as well:

Someone mentioned (and I forget whom it was) that talk about IE8 was strangely missing from the whole conversation. There were no announcements about new upcoming features in IE, no mention of whether IE8 will support what-wg nor any future plans.

It makes sense that Silverlight should have its day to shine, but seriously, IE8 is important! Why not drop even a few tidbits about what to expect? Firefox 3 received a ton of press back in February when it became clear that the nextgen browser would support offline applications.

Maybe Microsoft is keeping quiet about IE8 to let the “we love all platforms and browsers” message permeate the blogosphere.

I should point out that the IE team posted this almost two weeks ago:

We will have more information to share about the next release in the future, but MIX07 is too early yet to discuss specifics.

All I want are tidbits, not specifics!

UPDATE: Mary Jo Foley has written a post describing what was mentioned about IE8 at Mix today. Mostly general stuff, like security being the top priority.

Read: IE Blog