Microsoft gets all techy with Windows 10's Spartan browser, details a number of new features and changes

Joseph Finney

Spartan's features will roll out to Windows Insiders over a few weeks

Microsoft has been receiving flak regarding Internet Explorer for years and they have decided to do something about it. Project Spartan is Microsoft’s response to the modern web which is becoming more and more a part of individuals daily lives. Keeping up with web standards while maintaining compatibility is not an easy task, but Microsoft think they have a solution which will please most users.

Spartan will use the same markup as other modern browsers and will break away from using the legacy versioned document mode. Websites which have been built specifically to support the old IE model will trigger Spartan to fallback and use the legacy method for rendering the page. However more complicated legacy code like custom ActiveX controls will need IE to run, and Microsoft plans to include IE with Windows 10 to ensure backwards compatibility.

Spartan will use a new engine, but fallback to the old

The January Technical Preview builds will not see Spartan, but you will be able to test out some of the new features which Spartan will introduce. The some of the new rendering engine is currently built into IE11 and can be enabled by navigating to about:flags and set “Enable Experimental Web Platform Features” to Enabled. With Spartan Microsoft plans to bring a whole host of modern web technologies such as:

  • HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)—an HTTP header to inform the browser to always request a given domain over SSL, reducing MITM attack surface area.
  • HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) –expands our plugin-free adaptive video streaming to support the popular HLS and DASH protocols.
  • Video Tracks — adds the ability to get information about multiple video tracks, and switch between them using the VideoTrack.selected attributes.
  • DOM L3 XPath – initial support for accessing the DOM tree using the XPath syntax. Expanded support will come in a future release.

Companies who target the web to access their customers will be able to use modern technologies to deliver their services and expect Spartan to keep up. Windows users can also expect a great experience while using Spartan because of the new web technologies which are being implemented. Since Microsoft has separated the old legacy rendering from the new modern way, Spartan should be fast and accurate on the websites which consumers use every day.

Developers also should expect to see new features coming to Spartan in the F12 tools. These tools give developers a look into how the browser is rendering their page and how their code is performing. Finding bugs and making code faster is good for users, servers, and developers. Here is a list of the new features Microsoft is delivering to developers:

New tools for developers in Spartan

New and Improved Network Tool—capture and debug network traffic with new UX and capabilities, such as auto-start, a content type filter, and error highlighting.

  • HTML & CSS Pretty Printing—just as you’ve been able to nicely reformat minified JavaScript in the debugger, you’ll now be able to do this for HTML and CSS.
  • Async Callstacks for Events and Timers—quickly view the “async callstack” to connect the dots between event dispatch and the original addEventListener call or between setting a timer and the timer being fired.
  • Sourcemaps for Styles and in the Memory Profiler—jump to your original sources, such as TypeScript or SASS, directly from the Styles pane or Memory Profiler tools.
  • Find Reference and Go To Definition—jump directly to a function call’s definition or find the references to a given variable.

Everyday users may not be interested in these new dev tools, but IE has always gotten lots of criticism from developers, hopefully Spartan can turn that around.