In a long blog post, Microsoft’s Charles Morris explains why Microsoft decided to start from scratch for its new web rendering engine for Windows 10. The company finds it enough of a burden to keep up with new web standards while also maintaining compatibility with older versions in Internet Explorer, Morris says. “Fixing long standing interoperability bugs with other modern browsers could actually break sites who have coded to the IE-specific behavior.”
Microsoft tried a lot to make Internet Explorer capable of withstanding the new technologies, while also improving the decade old browser’s image among customers, but at one point it realized that that it had to release another browser, so that one could embrace the web the IE way while the other perceived them like other browsers.
The “other” browser is Spartan, which Microsoft revealed and talked in length at its event last month. Spartan will be the default web browser in all versions of Windows 10 — including mobile and desktop. It ditches the legacy standards and compatibility burden that IE has been carrying since its inception, and instead focuses on being compliant with new standards. “Our rallying cry for Windows 10 became ‘the web just works’,” Morris wrote.
The browser will, however, support the MSHTML.dll or Trident — the older IE rendering engine which will feed the sites that rely on IE’s rendering errors and bugs. “Our legacy engine … can remain largely unchanged (outside of security and other high priority fixes) to help guarantee legacy compatibility for our enterprise customers,” Morris said.
In the post, Morris also notes that Microsoft briefly considered using the new HTML rendering engine based on open source code base such as WebKit. WebKit powers Apple’s Safari browser and a variation of it is used in Chrome. But Microsoft couldn’t go with open code as it wants full control over it. Microsoft believes that an increasing number of browsers are becoming more reliant on WebKit, which it fears will create a “monoculture on the web.”
As Microsoft looks forward, it plans to regularly update the Spartan to keep it updated with all the upcoming changes to web standards as they happen. “We don’t see this interoperability effort having an end date – we’ll be continuously checking the data and rolling out improvements to the new rendering engine,” he said. “For users that upgrade to Windows 10, the engine will be evergreen, meaning that it will be kept current with Windows 10 as a service.”