Microsoft builds IE's younger brother, codenamed Spartan: report

A report from CNET says that Microsoft is building 'Spartan,' a new browser to better compete with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. 'Spartan' would be Microsoft's first built-from-scratch browser since Internet Explorer debuted in 1995.

Jason Redmond/Reuters
Microsoft may be building a new browser, code-named "Spartan." Here, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a shareholders' meeting in Bellevue, Washington.

When Windows 10 ships next year, it’ll include a new browser – but the software, code-named “Spartan,” might not be an update to Internet Explorer.

Microsoft may be building an entirely new, light-weight browser to better compete with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, according to a report from CNET’s Mary Jo Foley.

“Spartan” will debut alongside Internet Explorer 11 next year, rather than replacing it, the report says, citing unnamed sources. But it’s not hard to see why Microsoft would be interested in a fresh start in the browser market. Internet Explorer has been losing market share among computer browsers for years (it’s at about 58 percent today, according to, compared to more than 90 percent 10 years ago), and browsers from Apple and Google dominate the mobile market.

The report suggests that “Spartan” will support extensions, and will use an updated version of Microsoft’s Trident rendering engine, allowing it to punch in the same weight class as Firefox and Chrome.

Microsoft is scheduled to show off new Windows 10 features at a special event in Redmond, Wash., on January 21, and it’s possible that “Spartan” might make an appearance there. Then again, the software may not be quite ready to be shown off at the event, in which case it would likely make an appearance in subsequent Windows 10 Technical Preview builds.

Foley’s report suggests that “Spartan” could eventually be carried over to both mobile and desktop operating systems, as well. Microsoft has said it isn’t keen on bringing Internet Explorer to other platforms, but “Spartan” would be a wholly separate browser, and, under new chief executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft has embraced cross-platform software to a greater degree. Last month the company even released enhanced Office productivity apps for the iPhone.

Windows 10 is designed to run on many different devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft’s goal is for the user to be able to have a familiar experience no matter what type of devices they’re using, and to that end, if “Spartan” is indeed under development, we’re likely to see both desktop and mobile versions in the end. Internet Explorer 11 is already available for Windows computers, tablets, and phones, so the two browsers will probably coexist for the foreseeable future.

Internet Explorer made its debut in 1995 as part of the Windows 95 operating system. Microsoft hasn’t built an entirely new browser since then – all its focus in that area has been on keeping Internet Explorer up to date – so a made-from-scratch “Spartan” would be a big deal for the company and for customers.

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