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Microsoft to Release New Light-Weight Browser 'Spartan' with Windows 10, Will Not Replace Internet Explorer

( [email protected] ) Dec 30, 2014 04:08 PM EST

Microsoft
Microsoft is rumored to be releasing a new light-weight web browser with Windows 10. Photo: Microsoft

While rumors were already buzzing about Microsoft's plans with Internet Explorer in Windows 10, new information has come out that the plan is actually to make an entirely new browser, codenamed Spartan, that will more closely mimic rivals Chrome and Firefox.

Originally, rumors of the Spartan project centered around it being the name of the newly redesigned Internet Explorer, set to launch with Windows 10 some time in 2015. But now, word is that Spartan is a brand new "light-weight" web browser that will not replace IE. And possibly even more surprising is the fact that Spartan and the next version of IE will both be released together.

The information comes from Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley writing for ZDnet. "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," Foley writes. "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."

So why release two web browsers in the next version of Windows? Foley points out that, while Spartan will be the light-weight browser that many Microsoft fans have been clamoring for, IE 11 will stick around "for backward-compatibility's sake."

Spartan is expected to not only release for the desktop-centric Windows 10, but also for mobile devices as well. The name isn't set in store as it's currently only a codename, but the Internet Explorer team already hinted in a Reddit Ask Me Anything from earlier this year that they were planning on changing the name of IE to set a new version vastly apart from the old versions, similarly to what the tech giant is trying to do by naming the next operating system Windows 10 instead of the next-in-line Windows 9.

Another big question on the mind of Foley is cross-compatibility with other operating systems. "Will Microsoft end up porting the Spartan browser to Android, iOS and/or any other non-Windows operating systems? I'm not sure," she writes. "The IE team said a few months back that Microsoft had no plans to port IE to any non-Windows operating systems. But Spartan isn't IE. And these days, Microsoft is porting much of its software and services to non-Windows variants. So I'd say there's a chance that this could happen somewhere down the line."

Now we wait until Microsoft's big January 21st event when even more details about Windows 10 are expected to be released. Will this new browser be ready for the spotlight in less than a month? Mary Jo isn't so sure. "...my sources also aren't sure if Spartan will be functional enough for inclusion in the Windows 10 January Technical Preview and mobile preview builds that are expected to be available to testers in early 2015. It may not show up in the test builds until some point later, they say."

Either way, we're excited to see a recognition from Microsoft for lighter-weight browsers and we'll have to see if that new focus brings Microsoft back into the web browsing game for the coming years.