Its not every day that the man behind one of the world's most widely used browsers swings into town. So upon hearing Peter LePage, the senior product manager for Internet Explorer, was in Wellington for Webstock, we cornered him to get his take on the web, browsers, music, movies and tech annoyances.

How did you get into your role as manager for Internet Explorer in Microsoft's developer division?
PL: I kind of fell into it actually. I started at Microsoft straight out of college as a tester on Visual Web Developer and spent my first five years at Microsoft there, when somewhat out of the blue one of the people I used to work with sent me a job listing for the Developer Product Manager for Internet Explorer. This was right before we shipped Internet Explorer 7 and there weren't any product managers focused on Developers. A couple of weeks later, after some fun and challenging interviews, I changed roles and here I am today.

So what does your role typically involve?
PL: As a product manager, my role changes a little depending on where we are in the product cycle. Near the beginning, I help the product team to gather data about how folks are using Internet Explorer and what things that they are asking for so that what we build is designed for how people are using the web, and what they want to do. As the product cycle continues, I spend time defining how we'll talk about Internet Explorer, what are the big highlights we'll want to focus on, how do we show those things in cool and exciting ways. As we get closer to a release, I work with different folks from all over the company to make sure we've got the documentation and information available so that people can take advantage of the features as soon as Internet Explorer is available.

What do rate as the coolest thing about your role?
PL: I don't think it's just one thing, but two. Getting to tell people that I work on the "little blue e that gets them on the internet" and is used by hundreds of millions of people every day is pretty awesome! The other part is that I get to play with the newest software and sometimes top secret new toys way before anyone else, and use real world data to help shape the direction it's headed!

Does being the man behind one of the most widely used browsers in the world ever see you waking up going 'wow'?
PL Yeah it does! From thinking about how many people use the browser every day to do anything from paying bills, getting their work done, to just surfing the internet it's a pretty powerful feeling. But I'm also constantly amazed at how great the developers who build the web are! There are sites out there that just amaze me for how fantastic they look and the cool stuff they do. These folks are solving big fun problems every day and making awesome web applications!

So what are your top 3 tech annoyances? Why?
PL: I think my biggest one would that that technology should just work, completely seamlessly, and should never require intervention or interaction from me. I don't want to have to patch my computer, add a driver, that stuff should just happen for me automatically. Another tech annoyance I have is the cost of some technologies – it's somewhat absurd. Why does it cost $2,000 to add navigation to a car, when I can buy stand-alone technology to do the same thing for $250! I understand the costs of integration, but sometimes, a premium is too much.

Okay so looking at browsers, what are your top three favourite features of IE8, why?
PL: Internet Explorer has a lot of stuff that I love, but if I have to narrow it down to 3, my absolute favourite is the SmartScreen Filter. With the IE8 SmartScreen Filter – helps protect people from malicious software and phishing threats. It blocks sites and downloads that put people at risk and it will tell you if a site is unsafe, there's also a feedback mechanism so you can report unsafe sites to it, so others will be protected as well. Since Internet Explorer 8 was released in March, it's provided over 350 million blocks to unsafe sites!!

My second one is really about how Internet Explorer protects my privacy. Internet Explorer does this two ways, with the InPrivate Filter and by separating the search box from the address bar. InPrivate browsing clears the tracks on my computer after I'm done, so no one can see what I've done online – great when I'm using a public internet computer, or shopping for that special occasion on the my family computer. By keeping the address bar and the search box separate, my privacy is better protected because unlike other browsers, the addresses of the sites I'm visiting aren't automatically shared with Microsoft or anyone else.

Finally, I love how Internet Explorer 8 makes it easy for me to do the things I want do. Accelerators and Web Slices mean I don't need to open up a new window to find the information want; it's easily accessible in my favourites bar, or a simple click. I can get directions, translate websites, send emails, and more quickly and easily. Less clicks means getting more done, faster.

What about your favourite plugins and add-ons for IE8? What makes them so great?
PL: I love that there are so many plug in's for IE, but there aren't really any I use. Internet Explorer has everything that I need built in, from protecting me from phishing and malware, to protecting my privacy, to reading my RSS feeds. I often go to ieaddons.com to see what people have written and often see some very cool stuff up there.

If you could change anything with IE8, what would it be?

I think Internet Explorer 8 is a pretty great browser, and while there is certainly room for improvement the biggest thing that I want to change is perception. Internet Explorer 8 isn't Internet Explorer 6, our standards support is night and day different, we've got developer tools built right in, just hit F12 to bring them up. The security model is much stronger and provides a lot of new protections like data execution prevention, protected mode, address space layout randomization, and a whole new model for sandboxing ActiveX controls.

What about your top 3 websites?

PL: I'm a bit of a tech geek and airplane nut, so I think I'd have to say: Engadget; A List Apart and FlightBlogger.

What's your reaction to Google ceasing support IE6?
PL: We've consistently recommended that folks upgrade to the latest version of our browser, because Internet Explorer 8 offers improvements in speed, security and reliability as well as new features designed for the way people use the web. While we recommend Internet Explorer 8 to all customers, we understand we have a number of corporate customers for whom broad deployment of new technologies across their desktops requires more planning.

How about Apple's stance on Flash support?
PL: HTML5 has the potential to offer much of the support than Flash or Silverlight have for video, but it's not available today and developers want to create those rich experiences now. Today, and for several years to come, Flash and especially Silverlight will continue to be great options for developers, so limiting those options for developers really restricts them from being able to create rich, powerful web applications.

What do you see as the future of the browser?
PL: The future of the browser is really the connection to the internet. As more and more content moves to the web, so will applications and our need to be connected. Innovating the browser for the way people use the web and interact with that new content is going to really change the way we work and live. The browser is going to become more powerful and a more important platform for our digital lives.

Can you give us a sneak peak into some of the good stuff we can expect with IE9?
PL: We look forward to sharing more about Internet Explorer 9 and the benefits it will have for developers, enterprises and end users alike but right now we are only sharing the information announced at PDC 2009 that can be found on the IE blog (here and here).


How do you reckon it'll stack up compared to the next iterations of Firefox and Chrome?
PL: We're focused on making Internet Explorer 9 a great browser designed for the way people use the web. It's too early do dive into details right now about how we'll compare to other browsers.

Okay so what's your favourite movie at the moment?
PL: I just saw Avatar IMAX 3D and was really impressed. The technology behind it was pretty awesome even if the story had been told once or twice before.

What about the music you're currently listening to?
PL: I've got pretty eclectic tastes, from dance to pop to easy listening, but I've been listening to a lot of Owl City lately. A friend sent me the intro to Fireflies as a ring tone the other day and that put a big smile on my face.

Xbox game?
PL: Is Visual Studio a game? I'm not much of a gamer at all, and would rather sit down and spend some time working on creating a cool web application. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to connect two disparate authentication systems across different applications and try to make a single site login for both. The challenging part is that I have zero control over one system!

If there's one gadget you'd like to see what would it be?
PL: I want to see a better system for connecting all my devices and media at home. I've got a smaller condo, so I really only need one stereo, but I want to hear my music in the bathroom, or not have to turn it up too loudly so I can hear it in the bedroom. Sure, I could run speakers into each of those places, but it's not geeky enough!