This is Spartan and what we don't know yet about Microsoft's new browser

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 23, 2015
Internet Explorer

Microsoft revealed two days ago that it will integrate Project Spartan, a new web browser, in its upcoming Windows 10 operating system that is expected to ship later this year.

According to Microsoft, Spartan has been designed for Windows 10 with interoperability in mind. The main idea behind the project was to create a browser that would run well on all device types Windows 10 would run on.

If you have followed the presentation you know that Microsoft plans to run its operating system on a wide range of devices including desktop PCs, mobile devices, tablets, large 84-inch displays and even the company's Xbox One gaming system.

The browser has been designed by Microsoft to adjust to the available screen or window space. The following images show it in action on a desktop system and mobile device.

microsoft spartan browser

As you can see on the image above, Microsoft has done away with the title bar completely. Tabs are now listed at the top (instead of the side of the address bar), and the status bar has been removed completely.

If you run Spartan on a mobile device, it is adjusted automatically to the available screen size as you can see on the screenshot below.

spartan mobile

Spartan will use the new rendering engine EdgeHTML by default but will have access to the legacy rendering engine used in Internet Explorer 11 and earlier as well but in a limited fashion.

Legacy support has been integrated to make sure that enterprises can load ActiveX controls and Browser Helper Objects in their environments using the browser. Spartan does not support support legacy Internet Explorer behaviors such as document modes, and for that reason, Internet Explorer ships with Windows 10 as well to make sure enterprise users can still access these contents on the operating system.

Spartan has been designed with interoperability in mind and Windows 10 users will notice that it supports a variety of new technologies, such as HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) or HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) when it comes out.

Project Spartan Questions

The reveal of Project Spartan shed some light on the company's new default web browser but Microsoft did not reveal all information yet that are important to users.

Here is a short list of questions that the company did not answer yet:

  • Is Project Spartan a Windows 10 exclusive or will it be made available for other operating systems as well. My take: Windows 10 only is likely.
  • Will the browser support Chrome extensions or its own extensions system? My take: It is likely that it will support some form of extension system.
  • Are plugins supported by Spartan? My take: I don't think that this will be the case.
  • How does it compare in regards to cpu/memory usage to IE and other browsers?

Now You: What's your take on Spartan so far?

This is Spartan and what we don't know yet about Microsoft's new browser
Article Name
This is Spartan and what we don't know yet about Microsoft's new browser
A first look at Microsoft's new Project Spartan browser that the company plans to launch with its new operating system Windows 10.

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  1. quadratic form said on April 4, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    WHAT A STUPID DESIGN, what do i need such a address bar for? Current IE 11 is so much better.

  2. Dwight Stegall said on March 31, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I’m using Spartan now in build 10049. It’s very generic compared to other browsers and not everything is working in it. Many things need to be added to it to make it worth using. I don’t see myself switching from Chrome anytime soon.

  3. Someone said on January 26, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Nice, 1 more browser for microsoft for me to disable, and use just to download Firefox.

  4. Pd said on January 25, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Please let’s wake up everyone.
    This is nothing more than marketing.
    Microsoft is desperate get rid of legacy image of IE and so they’re spinning some new (code)name and most tech journalists are too deluded or soft to actually tell it like it is: non-news!

    – IE already had edge mode “EdgeHTML”? Do me a favor. It’s only a new rendering engine of you believe a branding team can develop a rendering engine.

    – Still has access to Trident but no ActiveX or NPAPI support? Whoop dee do!!! So they’re doing the sensible thing and running with the crowd by disabling legacy APIs. Chrome and Firefox have been going down that path for ages now.

    – Resizes on small screens? Wow wee, welcome to the ‘smart’ phone world Microsoft. Google, Apple and Mozilla have been there for years (and no, Windows Phone doesn’t count because nobody uses it). Really, did anyone expect them to build a browser that doesn’t run on mobile?

    – They’ve copied Chrome’s tabs not title bar? Geez even Mozilla finally made that copy cat move with the much debated and delayed Australis.

    The truth is Microsoft is forking it’s browser marketing but otherwise not much has changed. Consigning ActiveX to legacy history is just the incredibly belated end to the non-standards hell they created for themselves after killing the competition and resting on their laurels until Firefox ripped them a new one.

    Welcome move if it meant anything but in truth it probably will not. Corporate users of ActiveX junkware are unlikely to run IE for junkware and ‘Spartan’ for everything else. They’ll just use IE all the time meaning any other sites they visit will not benefit from any performance or new standards support in ‘Spartan’.

    In short this is yet another attempt to rid themselves of their decade+ legacy but it will only start the ball rolling. Developers who are still wedded to ActiveX and NPAPI instead of HTML5 are still Microsoft’s (and the Web’s) Achilles heel. If Microsoft seriously wanted to break with their legacy past and advance the Web, they’d end support for ActiveX in their browsers. Force developers of legacy junkware to roll that junkware into a “single-site/app” executable or shortcut to IE11. Any links from within these sites/apps should be forced into loading in ‘Spartan’.

  5. oz said on January 24, 2015 at 12:18 am

    is it just me or is the screen shot showing the resizing look exactly the same just that one is black and the other is white ?

  6. marc klink said on January 23, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    My take is that [and many will immediately think that I’m far too cynical…perhaps true] this will be another browser which, were it not for the installed base of Windows would die a very quiet death, with most people saying “Huh?” when the name is mentioned.

    Microsoft has never put a good effort into a browser, all the way back to the time when they “appropriated” Mosaic, and called it Internet Exploder 1.0. Some think that IE 9, 10, and 11 are good efforts, but, if one really examines the people thinking this, it is clear they are simply fan boys. When one of these last 3 iterations of Internet Exploder are compared, they now have acceptable results as measured, yet no one mentions the fact that the browser is less than useful in the way it is designed in relation to people [ergonomics]. These latest versions are also ugly as can be, and do nothing in what would be called an elegant fashion.

    Why should this be any different? Windows 10 has still only been delivered as vaporware as far as I am concerned – because anyone who thinks can see that a few presentations is far from utility in everyday situations. [ – and then there is still the factor of less than beautiful metrics].

    Microsoft cannot hope to put forth something which is comparable to the best available, unless they have a huge head start, such as using WebKit as the base. [or perhaps Gecko…].

    In the end, as much hoopla as was let loose on Wednesday, there was a greater amount of nebulous speculation, and just a gnat’s eyelash away from the FUD which used to come from MS back in the 1990s.

    1. Andrew said on January 23, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      Some of your points do confuse me, like saying they never put good effort into a browser, IE4 was a pretty big change that essentially combined the OS and browser together, which was pretty remarkable (although it also put them closer to having control of which browser would be used by most).

      Why would they switch to webkit anyway? The only company that uses webkit right now is Safari I believe, and some smaller independent browsers. Chrome and Opera even gutted webkit to make their own derivative, so I wouldn’t say webkit is the best solution. Plus we need competition, and not everyone to just jump onto one engine. Trident, if I remember correctly, is still the number one web browser engine being used on windows, and it’s not a bad engine per se, that is except when Microsoft got lazy and ignored innovation in 2001-2006. My guess is it seems they are going to do the same thing to trident Google did with Webkit by cutting out a lot of useless code and optimize the build on their EdgeHTML engine.

      As for calling Windows 10 vaporware… I really think you should understand what vaporware is first.

      Personally I like the direction that microsoft is going with the browser, and it would be nice if they made a browser that I would actually want to use.

      1. Andrew said on January 23, 2015 at 11:07 pm

        That’s something only time will tell.

        I have to agree with you on Opera prior to v15 with usability, it was a phenomenal browser with little memory usage for all it offered. I would have used that as my main browser if the sites I went to worked correctly. And yes, it really is all about usability in the large part, there’s no denying that. That’s why I mainly use chrome because it makes my life a lot easier with my Android, but usability differs with everyone, much like everyone has their own needs and wants.

        I am by all means not saying that Netscape and Opera weren’t good browsers back in the day, hell, I preferred netscape over IE up until IE4, but the whole IE4 package was pretty innovative given how much it transformed Windows 95 at the time. It was unfair though because yes microsoft could give it away and had their code so they could easily merge it with Windows, but still it was a pretty big change that I was blown away by at the time.

        I dropped IE before 7 came out, but I have heard about it (IE11) being pretty quick and solid nowadays, I just can’t say that from personal experience. I guess I am just trying to keep an open mind on all this.

      2. marc klink said on January 23, 2015 at 10:41 pm

        First, I know what vaporware is, and, after having all but the update today [downloading it right now] of Windows 10 on a machine, I feel it is appropriate to call it vaporware, as all of those whiz bang features cited are not yet working.

        Perhaps when the download finishes, but I still doubt…it is my nature, and has served me well when dealing with Microsoft.

        I just read MaryJo Foley’s column, and indeed, they are not basing it on Webkit, but instead keeping Trident. What a disappointment; it’s another case of the emperor’s new clothes, as she explains it to be the analog of the IE 11 Metro version. If that is it, include me out.

        Also, IMO, ALL versions of Internet Exploder have been crap, because at first Microsoft just appropriated the code and put their throbber in the corner, later, it was just a crappy browser, never as good as Netscape, and not really needing to be, because Andreesen never gave Netscape away, and MS gave IE away, making the fight totally unfair. Netscape, and then Opera, were always superior, as judged not only be me, but by nearly every person I have spoken to that cares about how the browser works. After IE became faster [after what was literally years], people then realized it was going to take more than speed to save the pig.

        BTW, Blink is still WebKit, just not strictly so.

        You seem to misunderstand what many of us value in a browser – usability. Few people I know get warm and fuzzy after running a benchmark on a browser. People get those feelings when their browser allows them to do what they want, with reasonable speed, and minimum fuss. So, in that respect, Opera based upon Presto is still the winner. Too bad that the dolts remaining at Opera sold out, thinking that money was the only thing they needed.

        As far as I am concerned, the Spartan browser [few seem to get the attempt at cleverness with that name] will be something that only gets used by those forced to do so.

  7. ilev said on January 23, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    With 10% for Windows 10 in 2 years time, Spartan Really Doesn’t Matter (currently Windows 7 has 50%, XP has 24% and Windows 8/8.1 has 12%)

    1. GSystems said on January 24, 2015 at 5:32 am

      If Microsoft is successful in their campaign to freely distribute Windows 10 to Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users, Spartan’s uptake will be far greater than you presume…

  8. Andrew said on January 23, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I think this is the first time that Microsoft is releasing a browser that I am excited to try out since they released IE4. The new UI looks much better and cleaner than the IE 7-11 one and I am glad they put the refresh right next to the back/forward buttons. Who knows, maybe I will like it to where I might actually use it instead of it just being a icon on my start screen.

    1. Tom Hawack said on January 23, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I feel exactly the same. Perhaps there are negative comments concerning Windows 10 and/or Spartan by users who have already tested the previews and feel/have the right to express their concerns at this point even if the retail is not here yet (current 2015) but otherwise I dislike making a case against a company without solid arguments.

      Personally I like quality first, then privacy. I mean to choose I’d prefer a golden jail than a rotten liberty (yeps). Life is in-between most often, a give and take. A Windows system may be indiscreet, Google may be… but IMO both deliver quality products so I tend to use them together with maximum privacy. I wouldn’t even think of loosing a tenth of the privacy I may loose then with, say, Facebook … like a ex-girlfriend used to say : “If I give everything it has to be worth it!” — Now I understand her better!

      That’s all folks :)

  9. Tom Hawack said on January 23, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Microsoft plans to run its operating system on a wide range of devices including desktop PCs, mobile devices, tablets, large 84-inch displays and even the company’s Xbox One gaming system.” And propose a common UI.

    What is the aim of proposing a common UI, I mean to the extent of equality rather than similitude with the obligation to forget what makes the specificity (and implications) of a screen’s size, of a device’s very uniqueness? Is the aim business only, does this aim consider that users need to be comforted in a worship to Microsoft that would require a most unique interface in order to sustain this worship?

    Why an obsession to have a unique interface throughout all devices? Worship, only worship or something more, like the user’s comfort by not being “destabilized” when switching from one Microsoft-driven device to another?

  10. ACow said on January 23, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    They had one of the best UX/UI design teams, light years ahead of Android, working on WP. Now they’re backtracking on all their good decisions into this cesspool of incomprehensible stupidity that is Windows 10, the browser interface being one of the best examples of that.

    See, a few years back one of the biggest features of WP 7.8 was moving the address bar from the top to the bottom of the screen. You hold your phone in your palm, the phones get bigger and bigger nowadays and so it gets increasingly harder to reach the top (or the top left) corner of the screen without adjusting your grip if you hold the phone with just one hand. So that was a good decision. You could access pretty much everything and navigate the web with your thumb without having to adjust your grip on the phone. So now, for the sake of making the system look similar to what you’ll get on the desktop, they’re moving it back up again. We get an additional bottom bar, though, with some buttons that all (except for the share button) fit perfectly well on one single bottom bar, along with the address bar, on my 4.5″ screen.

    Windows 10 is sure going to be improvement over Windows 8 in that this time around they’re not only going to piss off their desktop userbase, but with enough luck they just might make their hardcore mobile fans go ballistic over stupid shit like hamburger menus in the top left corner that very much resemble Android etc. and if they do, it’s going to bite them hard. Way to go MS.

  11. Tom Hawack said on January 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    So if I understand well Windows 10 will have as its built-in browser Spartan and Spartan will be IE 11 compatible (“Spartan will use the new rendering engine EdgeHTML by default but will have access to the legacy rendering engine used in Internet Explorer 11 and earlier as well but in a limited fashion.“), but there will not be two browsers, that is Spartan and IE 11. Therefor, for those upgrading from Windows 7/8.1 their IE will have been replaced with Spartan and IE GUI at least will have vanished. Is this correct?

    As much as I’ve never been an IE user as much I do not wish to fall into the anti-Microsoft fashion. Never say never : I have an enthusiastic approach of Windows 10 and that includes Spartan, or whatever the name of the built-in (new) browser is to be eventually (re)named. I like the sound of “Spartan” but this is a detail.

    1. Dave said on January 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      It won’t confuse anyone because it’s just IE12. What you saw the other day is called marketing. No doubt Edge is based on Trident, like Blink is based on Webkit. It won’t be interesting or exciting at all.

      The IE 10/11 interface will vanish, thank goodness. That UI a textbook of bad design decisions which Microsoft need to distance themselves from. Bit like Windows 8 in that regard, hence the new marketing strategy.

      1. GSystems said on January 24, 2015 at 5:23 am

        The only issue I’ve seen with IE11 is the placement of certain options in the Settings.

        Other than that, IE11 is quite sleek with it’s Aero incorporation and home/fav/opt placement.

        What is so horrid about this as opposed to, say, Chrome?

        The loss of the Titlebar is a beautiful development, but other than that, hmmm…

  12. anon said on January 23, 2015 at 11:18 am

    One of the worst-sounding name for a software.

    1. BKV said on January 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      “…. worst-sounding name for a software”

      Really¿ Spartan goes really well with Cortana.
      I’d been expecting other MS-Halo references since Cortana was announced.
      I was even expecting Guilty Spark as a project codename.

      1. GSystems said on January 24, 2015 at 5:10 am

        I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t named Spartan, but Spartan definitely shows a whole other direction for Microsoft, and I really, really like it…

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 23, 2015 at 11:28 am

      It is a project name, can still be renamed before release.

  13. Dave said on January 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

    I can’t think why it would run Chrome extensions. That doesn’t seem like a good move at all. A tool to convert Chrome extensions seems like an excellent idea though. They should do that. Chrome extensions seem to be little more than Userscripts at the end of the day.

  14. Dwight Stegall said on January 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I’ll be glad when it’s finally released so I can disable it like I do IE. Chrome Canary 64-bit rules! :)

    1. GSystems said on January 24, 2015 at 5:09 am

      It is January 23rd, 2015 not Janiary 23rd, 2005.

      Fix your time server. I can assist in this, if you like…

      [This reply is being written using Internet Explorer 11….*GASP*]

    2. Andrew said on January 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      fanboy much?

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