Microsoft clarifies Spartan, IE browser engines

March 25, 2015 | 12:03

Tags: #browser #edgehtml #ie #internet-explorer #mshtml #project-spartan #spartan #windows-10 #windows-threshold

Companies: #microsoft

Microsoft has confirmed that Project Spartan, its next-generation web browser due to launch alongside Windows 10 this summer, will be based on an entirely new engine dubbed EdgeHTML.

First rumoured late last year, Project Spartan represents Microsoft's attempt to escape from the negative connotations of the Internet Explorer brand - themselves the fruit of years of standards abuse. Although recent releases of IE perform well in standards-compliance tests, this was not traditionally the case: it was common for web developers to have to code specific rules for when the site was accessed in Internet Explorer simply to have the page render properly - or, in extreme cases, at all.

In a blog post on Project Spartan, programme manager Kyle Pflug has added additional detail to that revealed by Microsoft during the Windows 10 unveiling earlier this year. Chief among these is that Project Spartan will be exclusively driven by an entirely new engine, which shares no code with the company's Internet Explorer engine.

Dubbed EdgeHTML, the new engine is designed to be standards-compliant with modern websites while also adding in new functionality including annotation support, a distraction-free reading mode, and integration with the Cortana voice-recognition sub-system - a nod to the Halo franchise in which the lead character Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a super-soldier from the Spartan project, works with artificial intelligence Cortana. It will also be available exclusively in Spartan, which will be Windows 10's default browser in both Modern and Desktop modes.

While Internet Explorer will also ship with Windows 10, it won't be upgraded in any way. 'Internet Explorer 11 will remain fundamentally unchanged from Windows 8.1, continuing to host the legacy engine exclusively,' Pflug announced, referring to the existing and long-running MSHTML engine. While this exclusivity means that any sites that don't work in the EdgeHTML engine will require the user to launch a completely separate browser, Pflug has suggested that this will be largely limited to enterprise users with legacy site support requirements.

'Project Spartan is our future: it is the default browser for all Windows 10 customers and will provide unique user experiences including the ability to annotate on web pages, a distraction-free reading experience, and integration of Cortana for finding and doing things online faster. Web developers can expect Project Spartan’s new engine to be interoperable with the modern Web and remain “evergreen” with no document modes or compatibility views introduced going forward,' Pflug claimed in the post. 'For a small set of sites on the Web that were built to work with legacy technologies, we’ll make it easy for customers to access that site using Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10.'

Windows 10 with Project Spartan and Internet Explorer 11 is due to launch this summer, and will be a free upgrade for existing Windows 7 and upwards users for the first year post-launch.
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