MozillaZine

Full Article Attached Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout, Rick Gessner

Wednesday October 28th, 1998

Well folks, mozillaZine has another first for you - content you won't find anywhere else on the Net! Today we're offering an extended look inside the Next Generation Layout engine being developed by the Mozilla Project. We have an amazing interview with Rick Gessner, the Chief Architect of NGLayout, about the history of NGLayout and why it truly qualifies as a new paradigm in layout technology. It should also put to rest any doubts as to which company is the true innovator in the browser market.

Click Full Article to start.


#1 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Benjy Thomas <benjy@NO_SPAM.alum.mit.edu>

Wednesday October 28th, 1998 11:26 AM

Reply to this message

Nice interview, but one sentence raises some questions:

"The NGLayout system already uses two *proprietary* XML schemas for interprocess purposes (but for the time being they are not exposed to content developers).

"Proprietary" in Mozilla... Huh?

#2 Re:Proprietary question

by Chris Nelson <mozineAdmin@mozillazine.org>

Wednesday October 28th, 1998 12:18 PM

Reply to this message

The key in the sentence quoted above is "interprocess". How processes internal to the program (processes not exposed to user manipulation) communicate. Proprietary simply because they were able to utilize XML to create a useful markup for internal application communication - markup that would be useless elsewhere at this point in time. Remember, that's what XML's for - for creating unique markup languages that follow a standardized structure. Third party parsers would be able to read the internal XML schemas used, but they wouldn't have much use for them.

Proprietary doesn't mean that it isn't Open Source, just that it's internal only this app.

#3 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by arielb

Wednesday October 28th, 1998 4:39 PM

Reply to this message

Now we got all the pieces of the puzzle: w3c standards (web designers want it), modular component architecture (windows programmers will love it), emphasis on internationalization support (you'll see Mozilla as the "official browser of X country because of this), one cross-platform FE (so that no OS including Linux has to feel left out), downloadable configurable chrome (fun for the masses :) ) and of course...open source. All we need now is more documentation and more stability and then we can expect an explosion of support for Mozilla. And please please please forget the nonsense of worrying about the schedule. You know IE4 came 4 months after NS4 and look what happened. Besides, we got Netscape 4.5 which should really take some of the pressure off the delay.

#4 Re: nameing confusion

by Steven Noels <stevenn@xs4all.be>

Thursday October 29th, 1998 12:53 PM

Reply to this message

This is pedantic, I know, but you should't confuse James Clark of SGML/XML/XSL fame (and creator of expat which is used as the XML parser within Mozilla and Perl), with Jim Clark of Netscape's fame.

Learn more about James Clark at <http://www.jclark.com/>

#5 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Brett Morgan <brett@uts.edu.au>

Thursday October 29th, 1998 4:46 PM

Reply to this message

The ability to use the nglayout as a plug-in for new web applications is so totally cool. I have a bunch of python acting as a web proxy to do something (badly) that this will allow to be done elegantly. Thank you very much to all concerned :)

#6 Re:

by Eaton Messner <eat__me@hotmail.com>

Friday October 30th, 1998 12:25 AM

Reply to this message

"It should also put to rest any doubts as to which company is the true innovator in the browser market."

It's fun to make jabs at M$ and IE, but you should be careful that this attitude does not lead to confusion abut what M$ is doing. Netscape is way behind IE4 in layout technology. Netscape is only now catching up with and passing IE with NGLayout. I doubt that M$ is sitting around doing nothing, so the jury is still out on who the true innovator is.

#7 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Chris Nelson <chrisn@statecollege.com>

Friday October 30th, 1998 5:25 AM

Reply to this message

Eaton,

But MS's "innovations", if any, were all done to assert a proprietary control over the Internet browser market, and push Windows further into the forefront. Take the new MS "chrome" spec, that does an end run around VRML and won't be available for any platform other than Windows. Compare that with the cross-platform, scriptable Web-based user interface that the Mozilla team is developing.

#8 some IMHO's

by Alex Chudnovsky <b9678050@wlv.ac.uk>

Friday October 30th, 1998 9:01 AM

Reply to this message

hi all!

First of all I want to tell that I do prefer Netscape browsers to IE. even to IE4 which I do not like although it's close technically to NN4.

However, being objective IMHO i think that: 1) Netscape has fallen behind MS both in technology and ability to market product due to many reasons. I am fully aware of practices MS used to promote it's browser which you may call unfair, monopolistic and etc and they really that bad, however, I guess it's clear that they still have some sort of not-too-bad for end-user technology right? You may not like it (as I do not like IE3-4) but many users like! Do they care about 'cross-platform'? I think very little understand real deep consequences of what MS doing. Asking further these users: would you like to have SLOWER running browser which is cross-platfrom but personally you (running Win32) won't ever benefit from it at least not obviously benefit? I say SLOW, because as I am sure most who here know that any attempt to make universal has drawback of being slower, you speak about Scripting in Browser as cool, well, it's cool. but slow is not cool. I used to write pretty big (about 200k) JavaScripts (not Java) in NN3, which was IRC like client. It was slow. for those trivial tasks I was doing (some parsing). I was running it on more or less moderate P5-133/32Mb, which should be adequte enough for such short program. And some people in corporationg hope to prolong life of comps which are 386 with browsers! I guess they will have to use NN2 for that. 2) Maybe that will sound odd to some people but I consider MS _has_ very good programmers who can code _Very_ well when it's required. I also think they had big plans behind even IE5 in sense of layout technology. and since they are not limited by 'cross-platform' coding they can code it faster in sense of coding and it also will run faster. Not because they know some magic insides of Win32 which Netscape codes doesn't, but because they can optimize for one platform. I like cross-platform idea, however, it seems to be hard to compete with someone who is pretty skillful in doing thing for one wide platform. Whatever court decides (I guess it will not be split of MS like was done with AT&T), but still there will be real competition. If Navigator were _far_ better then MS it would envietably stop users from using MS stuff, however situation shows that either it's not that better _OR_ users do not need or do not consider need of getting better then MS. I do not include in these users myself and many of those who here who prefer Netscape for posibly diff reasons.

that's totally IMHO

:)

I am sorry if possibly offended someone that's not my intention, just trying to show some point which is neither pro-Netscape nor pro-Nicrosoft, i am just trying to be objective!!!

Alex

p.s. Sorry for weird text it's not really well structured and language should have been better, hopefully you will understand my idea behind words.

p.p.s. TextBox to type in message is _very_ unuseful when it comes to type long message, perhaps that to discouradge people typing lots of flame? then it's doesnt work :)

#9 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Chris Nelson <chrisn@statecollege.com>

Friday October 30th, 1998 9:21 AM

Reply to this message

Alex,

I had to make the "Response" textbox thinner to accomodate serious layout problems on some Unix browsers.

--chris

#10 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Aleks <awz@home.com>

Friday October 30th, 1998 10:50 AM

Reply to this message

Alex,

I don't think anyone can deny that IE4 has faster layout than NN4. That to me is one of the few technical advantages IE has, although it is a very important one. I think if Messenger supported multiple POP3 accounts and NN had as good layout as IE4, then there would be no reason why anyone should choose IE4 over Communicator. The only reason might be ActiveX support, but I'm talking about _good_ reasons of course :)

Microsoft does have an advantage by working only on the Windows platform, but that is not the only reason why IE4 performs as fast as it does. It has been shown that Microsoft refuses to give out certain Windows APIs to their competitors, and in Barksdale's deposition it has been stated specifically that Microsoft delayed giving Netscape Win32 APIs when Netscape refused to collude with them.

Personally I hope that NGLayout will be better than Microsoft's next offering, and it's certainly faster than IE4. So you can see that sometimes, even a cross-platform product doesn't have to be slower than a Windows-only product. Microsoft's weakness is that instead of trying to make the best standard-compliant implementations, they put a lot of their energy into inventing new proprietary specs, which then have to go through an acceptance process and they often get rejected. So by trying to hijack standards and not concentrating on making better open-standard products, they are in a way helping Netscape and other compete in the open standard arena.

Anyone remember Micrsoft Blackbird? That was their proprietary standard that was going to replace HTML, because it was "better". They were supposed to use it on MSN at first and of course try to get all web developers to use it. Same happened with VBScript, and ActiveX. Luckily ActiveX never took off on the web, and hopefully neither will Chrome. The only way Chrome and other proprietary Microsoft technologies can take off is if MS gets 80%+ of the browser market, and that is why it is *WRONG* to use IE and thus help them achieve that goes. When this happens, you will only be able to view all the information on the web using Microsoft Windows...

Aleks

#11 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by arielb

Friday October 30th, 1998 11:55 AM

Reply to this message

Aleks, most people don't _choose_ IE. They get it with AOL or windows.

#12 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Alex Chudnovsky <b9678050@wlv.ac.uk>

Friday October 30th, 1998 12:54 PM

Reply to this message

2 Arielb:

No, I disagree. They GET it with windows with AOL and maybe from their ISP, but! Are they deaf? don't they know Netscape word? do they read Papers? I am 100% positive they are at least aware of what Netscape is and it has browser. AOL is another case as far as I know they use sort of proprietary access to Inet, so not every browser will work, I do not have access to it, so I might be wrong.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is:

MS cleared gained first access to people in sense of first browser tried by them, BUT:

_IF_ people really though that they need some better browser or whatever else, they could just download it from Netscape!!! This means Netscape has no _major_ features which diff it from MS. Otherwise all other people would use it. AM I wrong?

they _had_ ability and free will to get other browser, why they didn't? Maybe because it's not _that_ better? Don't tell me people too stupid and like first thing they try. Only in case if that _first_ thing suits them more or less enough.

I will respond more when I get some food in campus :) a hell lot more so you will burn trying to get what I mean with my awful English :))))

Alex

#13 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Alex Chudnovsky <b9678050@wlv.ac.uk>

Friday October 30th, 1998 2:44 PM

Reply to this message

in response to Aleks:

Mostly I agree with you, except those talks about that: "MS Software is faster because they know some hidden API"

I think that's just kid stuff to talk about it. MS could exploit their knowledge of API at early start of Windows, but not now. There are lots of documentation about it, you say undocumented? I didnt hear any reports about someone who suspecting such a thing would disassemble and reverse engeneer (don't tell me it's not allowed by license, they all do that), and _proove_ that MS was using secret API. where are these reports? I think there are more then enough good Asm guys around for that.

Besides, relating to Layout engine, what sort of API they know may help? The only which come to my mind is GUI, which is real issue of how well you paint it on screen (your views), but all the other stuff is done in your program, in layout, not in API (not counting Winsock).

Therefore, I can conclude that all these talks about internal API advantage has little relevance to browser wars. although I think they play _big_ role for MS when they do something related to Kernel, of course they know better and can code faster (time spend on project).

well, I guess soon we may see 80+% of MS's shate in browser market. :( I guess it's close. And don't forget, after certain point of time growth comes exponentianlly. I think above 60% they will get BIG boost. I guess they prepare IE5 for that. And I also make a cautious guess IE5 will be out before NN5. And what I think undoubtly is that layout in IE5 will be on par with NN5. Do you have any doubts MS guys not picking up every new tar-ball and watching what's new????

I think they would certainly do every new feature and idea represented in code, particularly in layout. If they would not then they are total idiots. But I am afraid they are not.

I don't know what type of guys they hire in US, but in my country (Russia) I know they took very talented guys to work for them. Very very.

:)

I am just thinking what I can tell positive... hmmm... labs are closing down and I have to go, no more flame :))))))

Alex

p.s. Sorry for off-topic, was not really related to NGLayout

#14 ~Reality Check~

by JD WaySide <zontar@mindless.com>

Saturday October 31st, 1998 5:56 PM

Reply to this message

Alex said,

"_IF_ people really though that they need some better browser or whatever else, they could just download it from Netscape!!! This means Netscape has no _major_ features which diff it from MS. Otherwise all other people would use it. AM I wrong?"

There are at least two of things wrong with this line of reasoning...

1) A number of studies have shown that people (*especially* non-tech types) tend to stick with the browser that's provided for them. None know this better than the marketing noids at Microsoft, which has gone to all manner of extremes (see "OS integration", "AOL deal") to make damned sure that Windows users see IE *first*.

2) The vast majority of people using the Web are still doing it at 28.8 kbps. At that connection speed, it takes nearly two hours to download the complete installation of Communicator 4.5. That might not be much of a deterrent to hardcore fans of NS, but the connected Joe Sixpack just wants to boot his machine and surf. If he's only got two or three hours after dinner and before bedtime to do so, which do you think he'll do -- spend 2/3 of that on a download, or use what's already on his Winbox?

IMHO this is a no-brainer. And it's exactly what the abovementioned MS marketing noids are counting on.

BTW, it seems awfully strange to be seeing all this "neutral" and pro-MS stuff on this of all sites. What the Sam Hill is going on here, anyway?

#15 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by george <beg1@netscape.net>

Sunday November 1st, 1998 11:47 PM

Reply to this message

here is my opinion if it means any thing..

Netscape says they have had 12 million copies of Netscape Communicator downloaded, and Bill Gates says, "See, people can use Netscape on Win98"

Those 12 million downloads are probably Netscape users already and know how to surf the net already.

Back to my commennt...I heard that IE doesn't let you download any thing over like 4 megs, and N4.5 is 14 megs?? That's a problem?

Also, newbees have problems downloading software and Netscape shouldn't have to force their customers to download 14 megs on a 28.8 every 4 or 6 months...

#16 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Steve Parkinson

Friday November 6th, 1998 4:41 PM

Reply to this message

I just wanted to say that by improving layout speed in NGLayout doesn't only mean that your pages load quicker.

It's going to open up a whole new class of applications which use the browser as their frontend. We are going to see some very powerful stuff which is enabled only by the efficiency of NGLayout, simply because it knows what it does and does not need to redraw.

Making documents which can alter themselves is very powerful.

#17 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Dan Penrod <dan@paradyne.com>

Thursday November 12th, 1998 8:12 AM

Reply to this message

I didn't see any mention of support for WebNFS in this article. I read several months ago, in another article, that version 5 would have support for WebNFS. And how 'bout CIFS? Does anyone know if either or both of these web/filesharing protocols will be available in the release of 5.0?

#18 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Dan Penrod <dan@paradyne.com>

Thursday November 12th, 1998 10:05 AM

Reply to this message

I didn't see any mention of support for WebNFS in this article. I read several months ago, in another article, that version 5 would have support for WebNFS. And how 'bout CIFS? Does anyone know if either or both of these web/filesharing protocols will be available in the release of 5.0?

#19 Re:Interview With the Chief Architect of NGLayout,

by Eric <enwinn@ibm.net>

Sunday November 15th, 1998 1:04 AM

Reply to this message

George,

I downloaded NN4.5 using IE5 Beta 2 and had no problems except, the hoped for support of CSS1 and CSS2 and the redraw issues mentioned by Steve are not in NN4.5 so please hurry up with NN5, I have customers who insist on Netscape and the things they want that are very simple and powerful in IE4-5 just don't exist in NN4.x.

PS - I've tried some of the stress test stuff with IE5 and the speed has improved a great deal, but there are still some quirks with CSS box stuff.