IE8 is the last version of the Internet Explorer Web browser. At least, that's what I'm hearing through the grapevine. It seems that Microsoft is preparing to throw in the towel on its Internet Explorer engine once and for all.
And just what will be its replacement? I’m getting conflicting stories on that one. Some are still claiming that Microsoft will go with WebKit, which, thanks to the popularity of Apple's Safari browser and also Google's Chrome, is rapidly becoming a de facto standard for all non-IE and non-Firefox implementations.
Others insist that that the whole WebKit story is merely a feint and that Microsoft will in fact be adopting a brand-new engine coming out of its Microsoft Research division. Dubbed "Gazelle," this new engine will supposedly be more secure than Firefox or even Chrome, making copious use of sandboxing to keep its myriad plug-ins isolated and the overall browser process model protected.
[ Get the full scoop on the Gazelle browser technology that may replace Internet Explorer. ]
But regardless of which direction Microsoft takes -- WebKit or Gazelle -- it will still have to navigate the treacherous waters of legacy ActiveX support. And as someone who has spent some not-so-quality time developing ActiveX controls in the past, the need to maintain some sort of compatibility layer within any proposed IE replacement is a critical consideration.
For most casual users (i.e., grandma in her den surfing eBay), ActiveX was and is just another annoying RIA (rich Internet application) mechanism, one that has increasingly been supplanted by Adobe Flash or various AJAX-based mechanisms. However, for enterprise IT shops with a heavy Microsoft investment, ActiveX has long been an integral part of many in-house applications.
If Microsoft intends to pull the plug on IE after version 8, it will need to articulate a clear legacy migration strategy that allows these shops to preserve their investments in ActiveX controls and resources.