As expected, Microsoft unveiled a new web browser today at its Windows 10 press event in Redmond. Code named “Project Spartan,” the new browser is going to be a successor to Internet Explorer that runs on the mobile and desktop versions of Windows 10.
The new browser was demoed on stage today by Joe Belfiore, a Corporate Vice President in Microsoft’s Operating Systems group. It comes loaded with a new rendering engine, along with a trio of new features. First and foremost, Spartan now gives users the ability to take notes on a web page and share it with other people. Spartan will “freeze” all the content on the page and let users draw notes and leave textual annotations for other people.
People who do a lot of reading on the web will enjoy Spartan’s Reading Mode, which strips away some of the extraneous elements on a web page including ads and sidebars to let users focus on the text of an article. That comes alongside a Reading List feature that lets people save articles for later, similar to Safari’s Reading List, and third party services Pocket and Instapaper.
Spartan is Microsoft’s answer to its major competition in the browser space, after years of Internet Explorer getting a bad rap for its quirks and lack of standards compliance, even after Microsoft had vastly improved it. Web developers will probably be holding back their excitement, since Microsoft hasn’t revealed what the new rendering engine is that’s powering Spartan. Microsoft declined to say whether it’s based on Internet Explorer’s Trident engine, or something new.
If it’s the latter, Spartan’s eventual launch could create more work for developers.
People who still want to use Internet Explorer don’t need to worry about switching to Windows 10: Operating Systems chief Terry Myerson told GeekWire after the event that the company will ship Internet Explorer 11 with Windows 10. That’s good news for organizations that rely on the current version of Microsoft’s browser for web apps and other utilities.
Spartan’s name is no coincidence: like many of Microsoft’s product these days, it comes from the “Halo” universe, where the Spartans are a group of super-soldiers. Clearly, Microsoft wants this to be a super-browser, though it remains to be seen whether it can stand up to Chrome and Firefox.
Belfiore said that Spartan won’t be in the first Windows Insider Program builds the company releases this year, but it will be available for preview further down the road.