Project Spartan is Microsoft's new web browser for Windows 10

What's New

As rumored, Microsoft will be introducing a new default web browser as part of Windows 10 — and it's not Internet Explorer.

The new browser, dubbed Project Spartan for now, represents a new era for Microsoft and its web browsing efforts.

Project Spartan isn't so much of a completely new take on the web browser as much as it is a way to rebrand Microsoft's browser efforts. Internet Explorer 11 is a good web browser, but its market share has fallen over the years on the desktop and its presence in mobile is virtually nonexistent.

That's in part because of the legacy baggage carried by the Internet Explorer brand. No matter how good Internet Explorer has become, for many users, speaking of IE conjures up images of IE 6 or IE 7. No one wants to go back to that era of browsing.

So rather than try to convince the world that IE is still awesome, Microsoft has decided to introduce a new browser. Based on a new rendering engine, Project Spartan offers a more clean user experience, a more streamlined appearance and is designed for mobile, tablets and the desktop.

Other features of Project Spartan include:

  • The ability to annotate web pages and share them with others around you. This works both with a pen and touch device or with a keyboard and mouse.

  • A special reading list and reading mode, similar to Apple's Reading List and apps such as Pocket or Instapaper. The reading list feature actually works offline, which is cool.

  • Built-in PDF support.

  • Cortana support. Again, this is similar to some of the Siri-powered features built-into Spotlight and Safari on iOS and OS X. That said, Microsoft's efforts seem a bit more robust. In addition to working in a Google Now-like manner with helping anticipate events happening soon, it can also work alongside actual web pages and text on a page, rather than simply in a search menu.

Will this be enough?

Microsoft's desktop marketshare has fallen over the last five years as Google's Chrome browser has become the favorite for desktop machines. Moreover, Chrome also has an advantage of being the default browser on Android, which means that more people use Google's browser on mobile and on the desktop.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of web developers no longer view IE compatibility as an important attribute. Developers build sites and apps for WebKit and Blink, the two rendering engines (that are very similar in nature) that power Safari and Chrome on mobile and desktop, first. Mozilla's Firefox often gets tested too and it has been designed to be largely compatible with code prefixes written for WebKit or Blink. Only after the major bases are covered do an increasing number of developers focus on Internet Explorer.

For Microsoft, this is a problem.

The big challenge Microsoft will face with Project Spartan isn't just whether this new web browser can win over former users who harbor ill-feelings towards IE, but if developers will start to treat Microsoft as a central platform for web development again.