Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Internet Explorer The Internet

Ballmer "Interested" In Open Source Browser Engine 410

Posted by timothy
from the ted-bundy-was-interested-in-women dept.
Da Massive writes "'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?,' asked a young developer to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Sydney yesterday. 'That's cheeky, but a good question, but cheeky,' Ballmer said. Then came the startling revelation that Microsoft may also adopt an open source browser engine. 'Open source is interesting,' he said. 'Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ballmer "Interested" In Open Source Browser Engine

Comments Filter:
  • Oh No! (Score:5, Funny)

    by nog_lorp (896553) * on Thursday November 06, 2008 @08:59PM (#25669773)

    Microsoft is going to be infected with the GPL virus!

    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/craig/05-03sharedsource.mspx [microsoft.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      The horror! What travesty could befall Microsoft if they ever did adopt GPL code [microsoft.com]?! We can only hope they will survive the ordeal.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:01PM (#25669803) Journal
    "We will continue to build extensions". That definitely deserves a whatcouldpossiblygowrong tag.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What would be much more interesting would be if Microsoft adopted an Open Source renderer--not by adopting an existing FOSS renderer--but by opening up Trident [wikipedia.org].

      This would:

      • Undermine Firefox and Co. by taking some of the Open Source wind out of their sails
      • Still support Microsoft's original goal of tying people to Windows--Trident is such a b!7$# to port to different operating systems that Microsoft wrote a whole new rendering engine [wikipedia.org] for the Mac port of IE

      Microsoft already makes it trivial for third parties t

      • by omfgnosis (963606) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:42PM (#25670761)

        Microsoft will never open-source Trident. It'd be like letting the entire world look at your dirty laundry.

      • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:45PM (#25670781) Journal
        When their beta product is getting 21/100 on the Acid3 test while nobody else's are below 80, I have a hard time believing anybody would be interested.
      • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:05PM (#25670955) Homepage Journal

        I'd rather not see an entire rendering engine in one huge monolithic chunk. Part of the reason that web standards outpace browser development by so much is that most engines are very hard to extend. What's wanted is a "standard" API for a data-to-data transformation engine. Instead of the W3C producing a proof-of-concept browser like Amaya, all they need do is produce a proof-of-concept transformation engine instead, which can then be used also to verify proof-of-correctness. (Any other transformation engine for that same transform will produce the same output for the same input.)

        Sure, they can still have their own web browser, but they don't need to re-write it when they add to the standard, they can just slide in another engine.

        How would this work, in practice? Well, my thought is that each opening tag and either explicit or implicit closing tag would be assigned a numerical value that would be assigned by the W3C, much as the IANA assign port numbers. Each engine would then register what numerical values it supports.

        The browser would then consist of five parts: network I/O, a preprocessor which converts tags to ID, a set of engines which would "compile" the page from a "high-level" format into a much "lower-level" portable format, a rendering engine which converted the portable format into a much more specific format, and then a display engine which displayed the results.

        The primary advantage of this sort of arrangement is that things like CSS could then be easily replaced in a browser. It would be much more pluggable than the Mozilla engine or the libwww engine. It would be much more customizable. A major plus, given that very few browsers conform the the whole standard and all conform to different bits. If you could rip out modules from a browser you didn't like but did support a tag or feature you needed, this would not be a problem.

        The secondary advantage is that it would be possible to provide support for non-SGML-derived tag-based systems, such as TeX, Postscript, and so on, natively. At the moment, you can include a link to a .ps file on a web page, but it's very hard to embed it, and completely impossible on most browsers to embed it in a way that integrates completely smoothly with HTML or would allow you to include active hyperlinks within it (unless an independent postscript viewer supported them). By compiling the whole page from all kinds of formats into a single, unified format, anything that is possible in one format becomes possible in all formats.

        This isn't how web browsers are written, though, and it doesn't seem likely that this is how web browsers will be done in the future. Which keeps document types isolated from each other and keeps browsers from fully supporting any of those document types.

      • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:08PM (#25670981)

        Do you have any reason to believe that the Trident codebase is anything other than a steaming pile of horseshit?

        Back in the original browser wars, both the Netscape and Microsoft browsers were evolving very rapidly, with lots of quite fundamental changes. At the end, when the Netscape code was open-sourced, it turned out to be (no surprise) a big mess that took several years to sort into shape. Meanwhile, Microsoft sat on their monopoly and did NOTHING to the browser, until they were forced into evolving again once Firefox started to seriously dent their market-share.

        The current state is that the Mozilla code has been substantially rewritten and is now in pretty good shape, but Microsoft are stuck hacking away at the old crud.

    • by zobier (585066) <<ten.reiboz> <ta> <reiboz>> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:31PM (#25671223)

      Another Ballmerism from his visit down under [theregister.co.uk] that made me facepalm:

      Steve Ballmer has publicly belittled Google's fledgling mobile phone platform, saying the world's largest search engine ad broker is low on Microsoft's list of mobile competitors.

      At an investor briefing in Sydney today, Microsoft's chief exec said Google would not have an easy time convincing handset manufacturers to adopt Android, its brand new Linux-based mobile platform.

      "They've got some smart guys and hire a lot of people - blah-di-blah-di-blah," Ballmer said of his rival. "They start out way behind in a certain sense, and we'll see how they do."

      Then he added "I'm not giving them a hard time" - before continuing to give them a hard time.

      Emphasis mine

  • by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:02PM (#25669815)
    Hasn't IE been a fully integrated part of Windows since, what, all the way back to Windows 98? If they start using some open-source code for their browser, will the architecture of the OS still have IE as such an integral part, or will it become a separate application again? Also, is it really such a good thing to have Micro$oft active in the open-source community? Forgive me, but talk like this makes me a little nervous.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by johanatan (1159309)
      It was never really part of the OS. That was merely MS' poor attempt at an excuse to circumvent the antitrust allegations.
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:36PM (#25671275) Journal
        Actually since Win2K it has been integrated enough that removing it completely makes the OS a big unstable mess. Before that in Win9X you could use IEradicator to strip it out and the OS would actually run faster. But if you try removing it completely with Nlite or XPLite now you will find that the OS stability goes right in the toilet. Whether because they did integrate or simply made sure it has enough system calls attached to it to make the OS unstable I don't know. Maybe with Win7 they'll release an OS that'll be able to be stripped down to the bare metal like Win9X was with 98lite. I personally hope so because I'd love an OS running DX10 that was as bare metal as possible simply for playing games.
    • by Laser_iCE (1125271) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:21PM (#25670003)
      I just got thinking. So let's say Microsoft doesn't include the new IE in it's next Operating System -- how do you get it?

      "Sorry, you do not have Internet Explorer installed. To download, please visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com]"

      Sure, most of us probably have a FF install on a USB key somewhere, but what about the people who just bought their computer from the store? This'll drive them insane just like the "Keyboard error. Press any key to continue" error.
      • by denttford (579202) * on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:57PM (#25670343) Homepage

        FTP. No, not a solution for the average user, but on a fresh install of XP, I'll often just ftp Firefox (and then install noscript, abp, flashblock, etc. and restart) in order to download the other stuff I need to keep the computer in a relatively useful state.

        Yes, I could use IE and go straight to mozilla.org, but off the bat, it loads msn.com and I have no desire to expose IE7 or worse, IE6, to the mercies of the scripts and ad providers on the page.

        P.S. releases.mozilla.org is where you want to go.

      • Sure, most of us probably have a FF install on a USB key somewhere, but what about the people who just bought their computer from the store? This'll drive them insane just like the "Keyboard error. Press any key to continue" error.

        If they got it from a store, don't you think whoever put it together, installed an operating system, and bundled a load of software with it might have put a browser on the PC for them?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        before everything was online, people actually went to stores and got cds - make a IE coaster or a FF coaster and you can install a browser without having a browser.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mweather (1089505)

        I just got thinking. So let's say Microsoft doesn't include the new IE in it's next Operating System -- how do you get it? "Sorry, you do not have Internet Explorer installed. To download, please visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com]"

        You don't need a web browser to transfer files from the internet, even via http.

      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NospAm.hotmail.com> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:13PM (#25671027) Journal
        So let's say Microsoft doesn't include the new IE in it's next Operating System -- how do you get it?

        They could just fix the "Add or Remove Software" applet so it points towards a collection of optional software hosted on a secure server. If you wanted to install IE, you could choose it there and have it installed automatically.

        Maybe they could call it a "Repository".

      • by Kjella (173770) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:14AM (#25671559) Homepage

        I just got thinking. So let's say Microsoft doesn't include the new IE in it's next Operating System -- how do you get it?

        Gee, I wonder how I can install a browser on this Linux box without a browser already. That's unpossible!

    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:56PM (#25670335) Homepage Journal

      If they start using some open-source code for their browser, will the architecture of the OS still have IE as such an integral part, or will it become a separate application again?

      You misunderstand. Ballmer said that they would look into a new rendering engine. Which means that IE will still be IE, just with a new codebase under the hood. After all, 95% of their customer base won't understand the difference. All they'll know is that IE is still part of Windows yet works better than ever.

      ...

      Which Microsoft will then go on to say is an inexorable part of the Operating System. (insert eye roll here)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aliquis (678370)

        But what he meant was how far gpl/lgpl will spread into the OS depending on which license is used and how integrated it is.

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:03PM (#25669823)

    'Open source is interesting,' he said. 'Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8.'" [emphasis added]

    Embrace, Extend... wait, there's a third "E" and a third browser technology, isn't there, Steve, and it's probably got something to do with what you'd like to do with Gecko/Firefox.

    Wonder what it might be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem is how.

      Open source makes this much more difficult.

    • by Merusdraconis (730732) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:00PM (#25670379) Homepage

      Ballmer pretty much confirmed (was there yesterday) that was the strategy later on in his answer - to beat the standards bodies to new features. The entire strategy they presented was building a new Microsoft-only Web stack built on .Net, and then trying to lock people in with IE8+.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by IntlHarvester (11985) *

        In other words, exactly how IE4 eliminated Netscape in the first browser war. By burying them in the W3C.

        I think what people overlook is that the standards process favors the "big guy" over the "little guy" -- assuming the big guy is paying attention. It will take some time for Microsoft to catch up, but it's a real possibility that they could they could pull ahead of Mozilla/Webkit/Opera within a couple years.

  • 3 E's (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:03PM (#25669825)

    Embrace
    Extend
    Enjoy

  • Reality check? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:06PM (#25669859)

    Yes, I suppose Microsoft might embrace open source. Of course, our politicians might lower taxes too. But Microsoft, like politicians, have a long history of saying one thing and doing another. That, and I'm pretty sure Balmer knows that if he mentions open source he'll get a free plug on Slashdot and on other media sites where highly technical people frequent. From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to hint at open source as much as possible. From a legal and business standpoint, it's more likely he'll dance around on the stage in a Gir suit while singing the doom song.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by lyml (1200795)
      Yes because I'm sure Ballmer just can't think of anything more than ways to get slashdots attention.

      Remind me again, does one spell delusional with one or two l:s?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by canistel (1103079)
        ... as a matter of fact, he does seem to be rather interested in developers, and keeping them on his platform; slashdot is full of developers (I think) just a thought.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by guyminuslife (1349809)

      So you mean, pretty likely [google.com].

  • How? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:14PM (#25669921)
    How can MS really adopt anything open source at this point? IE isn't just a part of Windows, IE practically *IS* Windows and having it being open source would make a valuable part of Windows open source which Ballmer hates with a passion. Take away IE and Active X and half the reason to use Windows goes away. And really, why use WebKit? Sure, its a decent rendering engine but no better than Gecko or the other OSS rendering engines. I really fear for WebKit if MS manages to use it, because rather than having WebKit we will have MS WebKit which is a highly modified version of an older release, Google's Bleeding Edge WebKit and Apple's Stable WebKit. And honestly, this is taking us back to Netscape Vs IE....
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sentry21 (8183) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:25PM (#25670059) Journal

      Honestly, leaving IE and ActiveX in is half the reason NOT to use Windows. Replacing them with a more secure, stable, standards-compliant browser core? Sounds great. Updating the old junk and pretending it's not five years past its prime on release date? Fail.

      • Re:How? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:31PM (#25670133)
        I know, but some of the people who are determined to hate Linux or OS X say that their bank, work, school, grandma won't work without Active X or that their bank, work, school, grandma won't render correctly with Firefox/Safari/Chrome.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The only way to update the BIOS on some MSI motherboards is to use their ActiveX control. The downloadable version they provide is 4 versions old.

    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Toone_Town (612696) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:45PM (#25670235)

      And really, why use WebKit? Sure, its a decent rendering engine but no better than Gecko or the other OSS rendering engines.

      One reason for using WebKit over Gecko would be the licensing...I know that for lots of corporations, BSD-licensing is much favored over anything related to GPL...(Gecko is MPL)

      • Re:How? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:19PM (#25670525) Homepage

        One reason for using WebKit over Gecko would be the licensing...I know that for lots of corporations, BSD-licensing is much favored over anything related to GPL...(Gecko is MPL)

        Parts of WebKit are under the LGPL and parts are under a BSD-style license (I don't know which parts and I can't be bothered picking through the source code to find out), Gecko is all MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-licensed. You're going to have to adhere to the conditions of the LGPL if you actually want to use all of WebKit, so what's the difference? Gecko could be said to be better as you get to choose between a library-level or file-level copyleft, since you only have to adhere to one of the licenses.

        Choosing WebKit over Gecko would probably be more about speed (WebKit is definitely faster), code-cleanliness (I hear Apple chose KHTML over Gecko to base WebKit on because of this), and simple bad feelings. A lot of people at Mozilla still don't like Microsoft, and the feeling may well be mutual among the browser developers on both sides. Apple probably just seem a more palatable choice to be working with for Microsoft.

    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:49PM (#25670275) Journal
      Most likely, if they were to do such a thing, it would be a recognition of the fact that it is no longer possible/practical to attempt lockin by mucking with HTML/javascript rendering stuff. I would expect to see a browser that is very heavy on the Silverlight, with webkit used to render HTML and Javascript at the lowest practical cost.

      ActiveX is an abortion, and has (mostly) died its well deserved death; but MS now has Silverlight, which is a much more competent stab at the web-stuff-plus-secret-windows-sauce concept than ActiveX ever was. I do strongly suspect that they cannot, and know they cannot, continue to make IE exclusive HTML/javascript a selling point. Keeping IE current is a chore, keeping it ahead has proven impossible, and there are now enough mac users out there, particularly among desireable demographics, that making websites IE only is no longer practical for anybody who wants a broad audience. That said, though, they seem to be moving forward with Silverlight, which isn't an IE exclusive; but might well be exactly the sort of "proprietary innovation" that Ballmer is referring to. Unfortunately, Silverlight is more competent than ActiveX ever was, so just waiting for it to collapse of its own weight probably won't work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Take away IE and Active X and half the reason to use Windows goes away.

      Legacy apps. DirectX. DRM'd-but-still-interesting things, like NetFlix.

      And the absurdly huge vicious cycle of user base -> developer base -> application base -> user base.

      If IE and ActiveX were the only reasons to use Linux, well, they work under Wine, and they usually aren't demanding enough for a virtual machine to be a problem either.

  • by Dracos (107777) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:15PM (#25669927)

    Either Ballmer is throwing out a red herring, or future versions of IE (presumably after 8) will finally be decoupled from Windows.

    But, what open source browser engines are there other than Gecko and Webkit? Both are developed by MS' sworn mortal enemies. Browsers are complex, time consuming beasts to develop.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:21PM (#25670007)

    Microsoft won the Browser Wars but failed to achieve its objectives in victory. The war against Netscape was to insure that all apps either network based or not needed Microsoft Windows with IE to run the apps. With such failures such as Active X which never really made it past the Intranet and Extranet application. What happened was web developers for the most part designed as much using open standards (or at least plugins that were more universally compatible) and then were able to make apps that run well on Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD or whatever just as long as you have a fairly modern browser. What was probably really surpassing to Microsoft most of this. Even decided to give the apps a step back in functionality (just recently for the last couple of year the AJAX method with DHTML became fully functional, or at least 85% there) just to keep compatibility.
    What killed Microsoft objective more then anything was the insecurity of Active X and the general habit for people when asked a question is to answer yes and get it done. So now Microsoft is spending millions of dollars in IE development without really getting any major competitive advantage out of the deal. Sure you may have 90% of the market but only 5% of that market actually doing IE Only things you are just wasting your money.
    Going to an open source rendering system just seems a way to keep up with the time. By joining the Jones you don't need to keep up with them. Just like with Safari or Chrome all the company needs to do is maintain the browser in features and UI (stuff that closed source companies have seem to shown they have an advantage over open source) and use someone else's Open Source rendering engine (Following specs and making things like rendering engines are what Open Source Developers are good at) So what Microsoft accomplish is a new objective. People will want to stick with Windows because they Like IE over the others.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:43AM (#25671817) Homepage

      Microsoft won the Browser Wars but failed to achieve its objectives in victory. The war against Netscape was to insure that all apps either network based or not needed Microsoft Windows with IE to run the apps.

      Was that it? I thought it was their objective to do their damndest to make sure network applications never took off in the first place by cramping the browser as much as possible and deploy Win32 thick clients instead. Considering they killed Netscape, crippled Java and delayed webapps by refusing to improve IE6 for years, I'd say they were wildly successful. ActiveX was simply to fool all those in the dotcom wave to give an illusion of freedom while still being tied to Windows, like a dog on a leash. For years I heard that you needed to make a "real" application to do this and that. What's happening now though is that they're considering going with the flow to keep control of IE - to for example ship the latest version of Silverlight with it and things like that. The clue is to have two new hooks stuck before you have to let go of the first one, rather than lose it completely.

  • Tags (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sasayaki (1096761) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:24PM (#25670053)

    itsatrapwhatcouldpossiblygowrongembraceextendextinguishrunrunforthehills

  • Battles. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:29PM (#25670109)
    In this second great browser wars there are 4 major battles:

    Features
    Standards compliance
    Speed
    Security

    MS can get features and even standards compliance through proprietary means, on the other hand, security and speed depend on lots of people looking through the code. So in essence, without an open source rendering engine MS can't hope to win. On the other hand, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome have made great leaps because they have all of the above.
  • I mean, seriously... Microsoft is just not the same without Wild Bill at the helm.

  • chair (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scholasticus (567646) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:40PM (#25670199) Journal

    "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 said.

    What the story doesn't mention is that the developer who asked that question was found dead later that day with a folding chair wrapped around his neck.

    • Re:chair (Score:5, Funny)

      by 2Bits (167227) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:48PM (#25670799)

      Good thing the chairs in Sydney's Exhibition Centre are all bolted down.

      Is any body giggling when you read this sentence from the article? I was imagining Ballmer looking around for a chair, and the expression on his face would be priceless when he found that all chairs are bolted down :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:43PM (#25670211)

    He's interested in Open Source in the same way ticks are interested in dogs.

  • by Anik315 (585913) <anik@alphaco r . n et> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:44PM (#25670221)
    Why? There isn't a closed source rendering engine that processes JavaScript anywhere near as fast as Gecko or Webkit. Eventually, this is going to make it very difficult for IE to maintain its market share when common web developers start writing applications that require this kind of performance. There will eventually be web based applications that match Windows or OS X in responsiveness and functionality using only JavaScript HTML and CSS. When ordinary web developers begin to develop software that requires the performance advantage of open source rendering engines, Microsoft will be faced with the decision of switching or becoming obsolete on the web.
  • Smoke and mirrors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hillview (1113491) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:47PM (#25670791)
    They're just tired of trying to compete with Mozilla.. if you can't beat 'em.. join 'em. ;)
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:32AM (#25671731) Journal
    Let's assume they contribute patches back and you are the project leader. Would you accept their patches?

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all alike.

Working...