If you’re scratching your head and wondering why Microsoft is making a new web browser from scratch, just take a look at this chart:
Internet Explorer, which not long ago totally dominated the browser market, has been eclipsed in recent years by Google Chrome, according to stats compiled by Dadaviz. Older versions of Explorer had their problems, and even though the newest version is pretty good, people rarely use it.
So it’s back to the drawing board for Microsoft. When Microsoft releases Windows 10 later this year, it will come with a new browser, which is codenamed Project Spartan for now. (Explorer will still stick around, but it seems likely that Microsoft will phase it out over time.)
On Monday, Microsoft released an early version of Spartan to public testers of Windows 10. Spartan isn’t even close to finished, but it does give us a good idea where Microsoft is headed.
There’s nothing revolutionary about Spartan, but I do like the clean design and integration with Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant that comes with Windows phones and Windows 10.
Let’s take a quick tour.
It has a clean layout.
The menus are simple.
Sometimes, reading an article on the web can be distracting. But Spartan has a solution.
If you click the book icon while reading a story in Spartan, you go into a reading mode. It strips out a lot of the extra elements, making it easier to read. This is a common feature on modern browsers.
You can also draw, highlight, and crop portions of web pages and save them to OneNote, Microsoft’s app for taking notes.
Cortana can predict what you’re looking for. For example, I started typing “weather” and Cortana automatically showed me the weather for my location.
You can also highlight a word and get more information on the subject from Cortana.
That’s really about it for now.
Spartan is still just a web browser. But it’s also a new way for Microsoft to refresh user expectations and hopefully entice them to start using one of the company’s own browsers again. Explorer may be a great, but the stigma has turned people off.