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Microsoft to Replace Internet Explorer With New Browser Codenamed "Spartan"?

07668051-photo-windows-10-logo[1]Microsoft frustrated a lot of app developers when they restricted the backwards compatibility with the launch of Windows 8/RT, and now rumors are circulating that they’re about to do the same with web developers.

ZDNet is reporting that Windows 10 will ship with Internet Explorer 11 and with a new web browser codenamed Spartan. Their sources say that the new browser will not become IE 12 but will instead be something entirely new:

Spartan is still going to use Microsoft’s Chakra JavaScript engine and Microsoft’s Trident rendering engine (not WebKit), sources say. As Neowin’s Brad Sams reported back in September, the coming browser will look and feel more like Chrome and Firefox and will support extensions. Sams also reported on December 29 that Microsoft has two different versions of Trident in the works, which also seemingly supports the claim that the company has two different Trident-based browsers.

However, if my sources are right, Spartan is not IE 12. Instead, Spartan is a new, light-weight browser Microsoft is building.

As someone who lives on the web, I hope this isn’t true. But I fear it is.

5083761052_1632b434fc_oMicrosoft’s new web browser is going to introduce a whole new set of compatibility issues for every website, platform, and app running online. I am not a developer myself but I work online, and just trying to picture the problems this could cause is driving me to drink.

Everything will have to be checked for compatibility with Spartan, but luckily there is no rush. The new browser may or may not make it into the Windows 10 January Technical Preview, and there’s no definite date for it to be launched.

The first anyone might have to respond to Spartan is when Windows 10 ships, and since that still doesn’t have a definite ship date (sometime in late 2015, to be exact) there’s little reason to be concerned today.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be interested. Microsoft’s interest in a new web browser might indicate that they plan to release versions of the browser for iOS and Android, giving users a new option for how they get online.

image by Masked Builder

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Scott Lewis December 29, 2014 um 3:13 pm

Considering the existing "metro" IE doesn’t support extensions of any kind (so no automated password management like 1Password or similar, no AdBlock, etc), and that the browser is rumored to use the same rendering engine as IE does not, this is a good thing.

Nate Hoffelder December 29, 2014 um 3:22 pm

Yech. I didn’t realize it was that bad.

fjtorres December 29, 2014 um 4:55 pm

IE codebase goes back to Mosaic.
Probably not a bad idea to code a new browser for their new cloud-focused business.
People seem unaware how much more standards-compliant and fast recent IE versions are so a new name for the new codebase browser makes plenty of sense.
Me, I hope they stick with Spartan. After all, it will obviously get along very well with Cortana.

Scott Lewis December 29, 2014 um 4:58 pm

Mosaic! My first browser. Yeah. I guess I am that old. Assuming the engine stays the same, it shouldn’t be a huge burden on web developers, any more than the existence of multiple WebKit browsers doesn’t make it 100 times harder to code a site. I’d say mobile phones with all the varying screen densities and screen sizes are a bigger pain today than another front-end application with an identical web rendering engine.

I can’t wait, since 1Password now has 1 Touch login on iOS (my tablet), Mac (my desktop), Android (beta, 5.0 or higher – my phone) and even on Windows, but only on classic Windows with full IE. There are times I’m on my Surface Pro in tablet mode, and hit a logon page, and was in Metro. Big pain to switch over to a different browser or open an app and cut and paste a password.

fjtorres December 29, 2014 um 7:00 pm

Yup. Mosaic.
Microsoft bought a full non-exclusive license for the Mosaic source code to get a headstart on IE. Unlike a certain other browser outfit whose founder just walked out with the source and only paid up much later under legal pressure.
It really is long past time for MS to do a full rewrite.
As long as it adheres to standards it shouldn’t be an issue.

john December 29, 2014 um 7:40 pm

based on the comments, perhaps you’re just looking for a reason to drink!

Julez Brooks December 29, 2014 um 8:43 pm

They are killing this Halo franchise pretty quick. First "Cortana" their version of Siri, Now " Spartan"? Lol next there will be something code named "Covenant" lol

Nate Hoffelder December 29, 2014 um 9:08 pm

Oh, is that where they got the names? I missed that connection.

fjtorres December 29, 2014 um 9:44 pm

You live on the web and never heard of the Master Chief’s brethren?
You don’t even have to be a gamer: the books and live action mini-series are pretty good in their own right.

Nate Hoffelder December 29, 2014 um 10:19 pm

I’ve heard of Halo, yes, but there’s a live action series? And books? That I didn’t know.

I don’t really do much gaming, and as a rule I tend to ignore the tie-in content. I never found it very interesting.

And in case you’re wondering, I don’t read Star Trek novels either.

fjtorres December 29, 2014 um 10:51 pm

They’ve done two live action minis:

The first is out on DVD & BD, the second started streaming as a perk for buyers of the Master Chief Collection for XBOX ONE.

They have a fully developed SF universe with a history all its own. Check the Wikipedia entry; there are few SF prose universes as rich.

And the games aren’t bad either. 🙂

fjtorres December 29, 2014 um 10:59 pm

FORWARD UNTO DAWN is on Hulu and youtube and other places on the internet. MS considers it promotional material so they haven’t raised a fuss.

Feda December 30, 2014 um 7:39 am

FORWARD UNTO DAWN is on Netflix too. Awesome movie too, considering the relatively low budget it was made with. I hope they make more of them.

JDOgre December 30, 2014 um 6:59 am

Everything will have to be checked for compatibility with Spartan

Of course, just saying "To Hell with it" and building Web sites to the established, browser-independant standards is out of the question. Wouldn’t want browser programmers to have to bother with standards compliance, after all.

Scott Lewis December 30, 2014 um 8:57 am

Microsoft’s browser has done an excellent job through a very concerted effort over the last couple of years of becoming browser compliant. But developers have always had the option of building sites any way they want. But if your site doesn’t render well on XYZ browser, you probably won’t change the world, just lose traffic.

Feda December 30, 2014 um 7:40 am

I’m sticking with IE 10 until I find another browser where you can disable tabs, or one that simply isn’t tabbed to start with.

William Ockham December 30, 2014 um 11:40 am

This is completely and utter nonsense. A "new IE" that uses the same JavaScript engine and the same HTML renderer is a little like saying you got new car because you got a new paint job. Sure, it looks different, but it’s still the same car.

Scott Lewis December 30, 2014 um 11:48 am

That’s absolutely 100% false William. The renderer is just part of the equation. That’s why Chrome and Safari aren’t the same, even though they essentially use WebKit (Google forked WebKit awhile back).

The web browser uses the renderer, but also has many other components. Proxy support. Bookmark management. Plugins and extensions.

My issue with IE isn’t the way it renders web sites (it’s been great for that since IE 9 in my opinion). It’s that the new UI IE ("metro") was weak on features. Same good rendering of sites, but no extensions, which means no AdBlock, no password manager like 1Password, etc.

This is a worthwhile upgrade.

William Ockham December 30, 2014 um 4:43 pm

All that stuff you talked about are the equivalent of a new paint job. They are just for show. I’m sure it matters to users, just like people care about what color their car is. But they don’t make it a new browser. Yes, you could build a new browser based on the Trident renderer and Chakra JS engine, but Microsoft won’t. It would make absolutely no sense.

And if the "new IE" is as different from the "old IE" as Chrome is from Safari, I will eat my hat.

Scott Lewis December 30, 2014 um 4:50 pm

New paint jobs can make for a nicer looking house. But on top of that, extensions, already prevalent in Safari, Chrome and Firefox and even available in Firefox Mobile and to a lesser extent through iOS 8’s sharing panel are more than Window dressing.

Allen F December 30, 2014 um 1:35 pm

If they try to 'break the internet for everyone else' like they did with the older IEs, then the only sites that need to work for it will be the 'get chrome/firefox here!' ones. (and the word will get out quickly if it’s a dog, helping boost sales of things other than microsoft — at one time they could force their wants on others but there are too many (often better) options out there …)

puzzled December 30, 2014 um 5:45 pm

Now that Balmer is no longer running things, I’m willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt that someone there knows how the modern internet world works.

This will be an interesting test of that.

Although I predict that even if the new browser is 99.99% compliant, everyone will complain about 1 to 2 non-standard things, even if they are rarely used.

Microsoft's Spartan Web Browser Breaks Cover, Confirming MS Plans to Push IE Down a Well ⋆ The Digital Reader January 9, 2015 um 12:38 pm

[…] has long been rumored to be working on a new web browser for Windows 10, and if the screenshots which leaked earlier this week are the real thing then it […]

Microsoft Unveils Spartan, Its Next-Generation Web-Browser ⋆ The Digital Reader January 21, 2015 um 4:54 pm

[…] Surprising no one, Microsoft officially took the cover off of Project Spartan today during its Windows 10 event. […]

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