Some critical aspects of a new kind of on-line measurement technique for micro and nanoscale surface measurements are described. This attempts to use spatial light-wave scanning to replace mechanical stylus scanning, and an optical fibre interferometer to replace optically bulky interferometers for measuring the surfaces. The basic principle is based on measuring the phase shift of a reflected optical signal. Wavelength-division-multiplexing and fibre Bragg grating techniques are used to carry out wavelength-to-field transformation and phase-to-depth detection, allowing a large dynamic measurement ratio (range/resolution) and high signal-to-noise ratio with remote access. In effect the paper consists of two parts: multiplexed fibre interferometry and remote on-machine surface detection sensor (an optical dispersive probe). This paper aims to investigate the metrology properties of a multiplexed fibre interferometer and to verify its feasibility by both theoretical and experimental studies. Two types of optical probes, using a dispersive prism and a blazed grating, respectively, are introduced to realize wavelength-to-spatial scanning.