by Charles Engelke
Chief Technology Officer
A lot of people are confused about Microsoft’s plans for Internet Explorer once Windows 10 is out. I know I am. But I’ve read releases from Microsoft and stories about public announcements they’ve made, and I think I now have a pretty good idea. Here are some questions I had, and what I now think are the correct answers.
What browser will Microsoft include in Windows 10?
There are going to be two browsers, not just one. One of them will be Internet Explorer (probably version 11). The other one doesn’t have a name yet, but Microsoft is referring to it for now as Project Spartan. Project Spartan will always be available by default. There may be some versions of Windows 10 that don’t include Internet Explorer by default, but you will be able to download and install it for free.
What’s the difference between the two browsers?
The Project Spartan browser is being built with new code instead of being an update to Internet Explorer. And this new browser will support only web standards, not any Internet Explorer-only behaviors. Internet Explorer will do what it has been doing so far: support new web standards as well as it can while continuing to behave as older browsers did for backwards compatibility.
Why will Internet Explorer still exist?
Back in the “browser wars” days, a lot of websites were built to take advantage of Internet Explorer’s unique behaviors and capabilities. Those websites are mostly gone from the Internet, but a lot of them live on inside corporate intranets. Those enterprises are going to need to use Internet Explorer to access them until they are rewritten or retired. Microsoft has always been very strong on maintaining backward compatibility and legacy support for its products, and the two browser approach is how they will do that for the web in Windows 10.
Why not just update Internet Explorer?
There is so much legacy functionality that Internet Explorer must support that its source code has become extremely complex. That impedes frequent updating to keep it current with modern web standards. Microsoft seems to feel that an entirely new browser, continuously updated (which they call “evergreen”) is the best way to support modern standards.
Does it matter which browser I use?
You should use Internet Explorer only for legacy websites that require it to function properly. The new Project Spartan browser should be used for everything else. For a while, it looked like Microsoft was going to have both Internet Explorer and Project Spartan be able behave like the old Internet Explorer or new Project Spartan, switching the code base in use automatically. But now they say that won’t happen, so you’ll use different browsers for legacy and new sites.
What about Windows 7 and 8?
It looks like they won’t change much. They will get updates to Internet Explorer, but Project Spartan will be only for Windows 10. However, Microsoft is making a big push to get people to update to Windows 10, even making the update free. If having the new standards-based Project Spartan browser is as important to you as it is to us, I recommend you take advantage of their offer.