Episode 94

Rethinking Microsoft's Browser with Rey Bango

January 30, 2015

Microsoft announced that they will be introducing a new browser, code-named Project Spartan. Windows 10 will ship with both IE and Project Spartan, but Spartan is the future. What is happening? How is it that the oldest popular browser is going to end? Rey Bango joins Jen Simmons to tell all.

In This Episode

  • What is Spartan?
  • What's the rendering engine in Spartan? How similar is it to IE?
  • What's the web standards support like?
  • Why is Microsoft changing browsers?
  • What are the priorities for Spartan?
  • Is that the name? When is it coming out?
  • It's "evergreen"? What's that mean?
  • How long will Internet Explorer stick around?

Sane markup means: let's build stuff that's interoperable. That's the premise that the IE team has been working on — work on the standards and make sure they're interoperable. The way that you build a page should work across any browser, across any form factor… Let's truly focus on cross-browser by using standards.

Transcript

Thanks to Jenn Schlick for transcribing this episode.

Jen

This is The Web Ahead, a weekly conversation about changing technologies and the future of the web. I'm your host, Jen Simmons, and this is episode 94.

I first want to say thank you so much to today's sponsor, Thinkful, and remind you that bandwidth has been provided by CacheFly, the fastest, most reliable CDN in the business.

I'm so excited about this show today. Microsoft. They did this crazy thing last week and announced that they're killing Internet Explorer. Those are my words, not theirs. I'm just having fun walking around the streets going, "Microsoft is killing Internet Explorer." [Laughs] It's huge. This seems like huge news when you phrase it that way. So I'm very excited to have somebody from Microsoft on the show today — a friend of the show, who's been on the show before — to come and tell us what the heck is going on. Rey Bango. Hi Rey.

Rey
Hey Jen. Thanks for having me again. Appreciate it.
Jen
You were on episode 42 to talk about Internet Explorer 10 when it was new.
Rey
Can you believe that? It's been so long. Oh my god. You know, I have to talk to you about this. You haven't gotten me on the show quick enough. What is this?
Jen
I know! [Laughs]
Rey
I'm feeling so unloved. [Both laugh]
Jen
I was trying to get you on, like, that same day [as the Windows 10 announcement]! [Both laugh] But, you know… the wheels turn much more slowly than that.
Rey
They do, they do indeed.
Jen
IE 10 was November 2012.
Rey
My goodness. It was two years ago. It's blown my mind. Just seeing the progress in the browser space over the last couple of years has blown my mind.

Obviously with Internet Explorer, we've come a long way. But even looking at how much developers have progressed. To see the amount of computer science that's being applied to front-end development blows my mind. It's great. We're building much more stable and maintainable apps that are able to do some pretty incredible things. I was just reading up on isomorphic JavaScript and I'm like, "Oh my god." [Laughs] You know? Alright. Something new, something more to learn. That's why React and Flux are on my plate of things that I have to get up to speed on. These are interesting times.

Jen
On episode 90 with Claudina Sarahe, we did a whole show on how crazy the front-end stack is getting.
Rey
It is, it is. You know, I kind of miss the old days of ColdFusion and doing some CFML and throw it on a page and the website was built. [Jen laughs] I'm sure your listeners are going, "Oh my god, ColdFusion? What is that?" [Laughs] But, hey, it worked for its time. It was a great application server way back then.
Jen
So the current version of Internet Explorer is IE 11.
Rey
That's right.
Jen
It turns out there's not going to be an IE 12?
Rey

I haven't heard IE 12 being thrown around. Right now, the most current version of Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 is Internet Explorer 11. We just announced the Windows 10 technical preview, which has Internet Explorer 11. Things are pretty exciting. There's a lot of great stuff coming out.

Internet Explorer 11 is actually a very solid browser. The amount of standards support, it just makes me very happy to see how that has progressed from Internet Explorer 9, where we really started beating the drum very heavily for standards.

I'm sure a lot of people heard the term "sane markup." To me, "sane markup" means, "Let's build stuff that's interoperable." That's the premise that the IE team has been working on: work on the standards and make sure they're interoperable. The way that you build a page should work across any browser, across any form factor. I think that's the key thing there. That's the way I think about it. Let's truly focus on cross-browser by using standards.

Jen
Yeah, and for developers to use progressive enhancement, which is something we talk about constantly on the show.
Rey
Absolutely, absolutely.
Jen
Of course, Internet Explorer has a horrible reputation. We've all been cursing at it for years. Especially those of us who build websites. Frustrated with bugs. Maybe people who are newer to the industry don't realize that there was a moment when IE 6 was the most awesome browser ever in existence. IE 6 was the reason we could use CSS for things like layout, back when it was so much better than IE 5. [Laughs]

And Netscape 4. Netscape 4, and later IE 5, were so much worse than any IE 6 has ever, ever, ever been. But here we are — well over a decade later — and IE 6 is frequently the cause of the most number of bug tickets, the reason you can't launch yet, the reason you're trying to close out a ticket that has been handed to you, and you're like, trying to finish this thing and it's just not finished, not finished, not finished. Because you have to test on older browsers and it's not working on those older browsers and frequently that older browser was IE 6, or even now, IE 7.

Although, today, it seems like very, very, very few people or companies are worrying about IE 6 or 7. Especially in the US or Europe. Now IE 8 is sort of the new frustration.

So, what is this news around Spartan? What do you think has changed for people, in the way developers will think about IE? With this idea that there won't be IE? It will take time for people to stop using it.

Rey

It's like you said — at that time, IE 6 was one of the best browsers out and clearly had awesome market share. I wasn't at Microsoft at that point, and I can say that we kind of dropped the ball back then, because we let things sit in a holding pattern for too long. Standards evolved and we didn't evolve quickly enough.

What I'm seeing now, though, is the team making a very concerted effort to make the browser top-notch. You can see that through IE 11. Right now, IE 11 has an amazing number of solid features. It really does. I can proudly go to somebody and say, "IE 11 is a great browser and you should consider it." If you're using standards-based development, there's no reason why your site shouldn't just render properly.

It's not to say that any browser is not going to have quirks. The bottom line is, browsers are complex things. Building a rendering engine that properly adheres to a specification is not trivial work. I think as web developers, we're fortunate that we have very smart people working at Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Mozilla, who are building amazing things that allow us to be successful.

One of the phrases that I like to use is, "I'm standing on the shoulders of giants," when I go out there and talk. I can tell you all about this web standards stuff, but the bottom line is, I'm not building the stuff that goes into the browser. I'm leveraging it. We forget that. We forget that these engineers are human. Whether it's Microsoft or Google or Apple or whoever that makes a mistake in the way something gets produced, the one thing I'd ask everybody in the community, is to remember that these guys are human. They're fallible. They're going to make mistakes but, ultimately, I think they're going to work really hard to correct the mistakes.

I can tell you, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the IE team, that's the way they feel. They are working hard to correct some of the mistakes from the past. Stripping out the proprietary stuff that doesn't make any sense anymore. Focusing on standards that are truly fleshed out in the standards bodies. Not just going ahead and throwing things in there and hoping that maybe they'll flesh out in the right way. Being thoughtful in their approach to how they implement features and the proper use cases.

It's a very, very involved task to build a solid web browser that renders the right way and gives developers the tools that they want to be successful.

With Project Spartan, I think that's a culmination of a lot of work that's happened over several years. It's all been leading up to focusing on producing a really, really great web browser that is interoperable. Looking at standards. Finally being able to stop thinking about the legacy that we've had and focus on the future. That's what Project Spartan is really about.

Jen
Why did it get started? At some point, somebody in the Microsoft team said, "Hey, you know what? Trying to make Internet Explorer better and better and better hasn't been working." I feel like the web development community began to really believe it and see the results of that work when IE 10 came out. But it must have been years of work before that to make that shift to really believing in web standards.

Now it's been, I don't know, four years of the team working their asses off, trying to make a really great, solid, modern browser. There was this pivot, like, "Let's now not do Internet Explorer anymore. Let's have a new thing. We'll call it Project Spartan." How much of a change is it, and why was that decision made?

Rey
It's hard to say. I wasn't at Microsoft when that decision was made. Even though I was at Microsoft for a very long time — when we did the show previously, I left Microsoft for a very long time. Here's the thing. Microsoft pinged me. They said, "We're putting the band back together." That's the term they used. It was somebody who was a lead on the Internet Explorer team, Jason Webber. He reached out to me and said, "We're putting the band back together. We'd really like to get somebody to come out there and help us beat that drum."

I had done that before. I listened to what he had to say and it really struck me. It showed that there was a genuine desire to make Internet Explorer — and, I guess, Spartan, I didn't even know about Spartan at that point — a really great browsing experience for Windows users. That's kind of what enticed me to come back. It was a great feeling to know there was an investment being placed in there.

I don't know the impetus for it. I don't know who made the decision, I don't know at what point they did it. But I can say that I'm genuinely happy to be here and see what's happening and see how Project Spartan is shaping up.

But more importantly, Jen, I'm just really excited to read the comments and see the community reaction. I have a feeling they see a light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, somewhere down the line, they're not going to have to worry about this old, legacy stuff that they've been suffering through for quite a bit of time.

Now, do I see Internet Explorer itself going away in the very near future? I'm going to say, probably not. That's one of the reasons it's still there. There are going to be enterprises that have legacy applications that need a higher level of compatibility. But we're also doing work to help them migrate over, so they can start leveraging this great project.

Jen

I want to talk more about that, and have you explain some of the stuff that Microsoft talked about in the talks that they gave. I first want to go back to... from the outside, it seems like there are three different reasons for Spartan to exist. They're probably all true. But I want to see if you can answer the questions that I'm sure people have.

One of them feels like, by changing the name and making this kind of break between IE and whatever Project Spartan's final name will be, that it changes perceptions. Two years from now, or five years from now, when people on an IT team are setting up computers for a company, they're installing the new browser from Microsoft rather than IE, and the QA team is checking for bugs on a new launch, and a team is sitting around and saying, "Which browsers are we going to support?" There's this way in which having it be a different name kind of changes everybody's perception. It really seems to put the memo out, that this IE 12/it-has-a-different-name, is actually a completely different browser than, say, IE 6.

I think there's really something to that. Even if not one line of code was different — but I want to ask you about that, because I'm sure that's not the cause. But even if it were, somehow, literally IE 12 with a different sticker on the outside of the box, that there's something about that change of perception that is helpful to everybody who builds websites, and helpful to everybody who is trying to create great work without having to worry about legacy code that's super old.

Rey

You know, I'm actually very happy this new product is getting its own identity. It does veer quite a bit from what is viewed as Internet Explorer. You look at the rendering engine... I know you said you would get to that. That's a great example of what this new product — what I see as a new software product — what it is, basically.

What the IT team did was, they took advantage of the IE 11 standards support to start off a baseline for creating a brand new rendering engine. They kicked off the development and said, "What are the things we truly need to build a standards-based browser? What are the things that are legacy items, like doc modes and some of the IE 5, 6, 7 features that are still baked in there? How can we drop that? So we can focus on the most interoperable, standards-based experience."

That's what Spartan is. It's diverged quite a bit from the legacy that it had under Trident and it's become its own self. In essence, it deserves its own identity. It deserves to have its own name because it's a whole new effort.

Will perception change? I hope it does. I really hope developers feel really proud to target Project Spartan and whatever they decide to name it down the road. I do believe it's going to make development substantially easier. I think about the pains. I hear them all the time. Obviously, I'm very much in tune with the community and I have my ear to the ground constantly. I still see the pain and hear about the pain the developers suffer.

Certainly, I see tangible effects of it. I talk to developers and they show me test cases that demonstrate they're having troubles. But I also see developers who just like to pick on IE because it's funny to do. I'm hoping that with Project Spartan, once it's out, developers can focus more on building sites that render across all browsers, and worry less about — whether it's IE, Chrome, a webkit-based browser, or whether you have to use a specific vendor-prefix — I just want them to focus solely on building great experiences. Hopefully Project Spartan will be able to contribute to that.

Jen
Talk about the rendering engine. Trident is — was — the rendering engine on Internet Explorer. So, Spartan didn't open up a brand new code document, with zero lines of code, and start writing a whole new thing, right? They forked Trident. Basically, the new browser is the old browser, morphed? Is that right?
Rey

Basically, they looked at what technology investments were already in there. Obviously, using Trident as a baseline for that. They looked at the standards support that was in IE 11. They said, "What can we leverage here to kick off our effort?" From there, they were able to, basically, strip out things that didn't make sense. Then start rebuilding that rendering engine.

The thing is, there's very little similarity now between Trident and the EdgeHTML.dll engine. That's the name of the new rendering engine. There's very few similarities. They've diverged quite a bit.

I was speaking to somebody in IE and they actually said that it's diverged even more from how Blink and Webkit have diverged. That shows the amount of effort they're putting in to make sure there's a much more thoughtful approach to not having all of that legacy baggage in there.

Jen
So the stuff that got ripped out... I think this comes up for a lot of us. If you work at a big corporation and you need to get your paycheck and you want to log in and get your days off. You've got to fill out some HR paperwork. You're logging in to some crazy system that is the gateway to log you in to this other crazy system, which is a gateway to find the button to click to go to this other crazy system. [Laughs] And all of them require Internet Explorer 7 or 6 or something. You can just smell that it's not web-standards stuff. It's other banking website, HR, something-or-other stuff. I guess proprietary to Microsoft or older versions of Internet Explorer. Would that be accurate? Basically, they just ripped all of that stuff out?
Rey

You're always going to have companies that are going to have some legacy. That's just a bottom line. Remember, legacy is a term used to describe a broad set of things. It's not only Internet Explorer, it's different types of software applications. Clearly, in enterprise, making an investment to rebuild things in a modern way is something that I think a lot of enterprises want to do, and sometimes they just can't do it. For whatever reason. Whether it's time, resources, or money. So we try to be considerate of that, but we also want to think about the future.

With Project Spartan, what we're doing is, we're basically including two different rendering engines. EdgeHTML.dll will be the most feature-rich, standards, interoperable engine. When you're browsing the Internet, the standard Internet, that's what's going to be rendering the sites. You're not going to have access to X-UA-Compatible. If that meta tag appears in your source code or if you're sending it as an HTTP header, it's still going to render in the most interoperable mode possible. It's not going to default down to one of the doc modes, like IE 8 mode. It's just not going to happen.

Now, for the enterprises. Clearly, enterprises have some challenges. They want to migrate but they have to be a little bit more methodical.

Jen
Usually it's going to take them time. They have years and years of websites to replace. It's going to take years and years to replace them.
Rey

Exactly. For websites that want to be able to continue to support their legacy applications, we've included MSHTML.dll. Which is basically the Trident engine. That's primarily for the intranet zone, or enterprise mode. That will be handled through some form of group policy or something like that. An enterprise can say, "This site needs to be rendered in a legacy mode." So it will be part of the intranet zone. It's not something that's going to be part of the Internet zone.

For the typical web user, you're going to have the most feature-rich capabilities possible. For the enterprise, it gives you a way to keep your legacy applications maintained and working while allowing you to migrate to the modern web, all within one browser.

Some people ask, "Why are you keeping two browsers?" Partly because some of those legacy applications are going to have a need for things like ActiveX or Browser Helper Objects or toolbars. That's not the premise of Project Spartan. We're not looking for that right now. Internet Explorer 11 will continue to be part of Windows 10 to ensure that enterprises can still have access to those things they need. There are lots of enterprises that use ActiveX controls. They're going to need to have access to it. We want to make sure that they have access to it.

Jen
It sounds like there are two options in there for an enterprise corporation. One is to have everybody use Spartan and have the browser switch into a different mode and run off the MSHTML rendering engine, while browsing certain intranet websites. The other option would be, "Go ahead and install IE 11 on all your machines and ask your employees to use that for past websites that require ActiveX." Is that right? At any point, correct me.
Rey

Oh no, actually, I think you're pretty much on target. One little caveat. The great thing about Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10 is that it's also going to include the EdgeHTML engine. The same one that's included in Project Spartan. Basically, you're still going to have the interoperable, feature-rich capability. But, again, it's just to make that transition from legacy to modern web a little easier.

I hear developers gripe about the enterprise all the time. I understand their pain points and I know they gripe within the context of, they want the enterprises to shift and migrate because they want to be able to use the best standards possible, and they feel like the enterprise is holding them back. I understand their concerns. Especially when you're working on the coolest dot com and you're tired on working on the quirks because you have somebody who might be working in a big Fortune 500 company. Maybe you have 10% traffic hitting on IE 8. I understand that.

The way I approach it is like this, Jen. Most of the time, we take the enterprise for granted. Whether you bank at JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, or if you're managing your stocks at Morgan Stanley, SmithBarney, or Fidelity. Or even if you go grocery shopping at a large grocery chain. That's the enterprise in action. We use the enterprise. We depend on the enterprise every single day. Those enterprises have needs.

To us, at least at Microsoft — and I feel pretty passionate about this, because I started my career in the enterprise — it's important for us to continue to support them and make sure they have the tools they need to be successful and migrate at a pace they feel is proper for them.

I don't believe in forcing their hand and saying, "You've got to go." It's a tough call. The bottom line is, they're running a business. Every time they migrate, it's more than saying, "Let's just update to the latest OS or the latest browser." No. Look at some of the top sites out there. Especially financial sites, who are under federal regulation. Any time they put out an update to a site or internal product, in many cases, there are multimillion dollar auditing scenarios that have to occur to ensure that those financial transactions are accurate. I think a lot of developers don't understand that.

Invariably, it's interesting, because I've talked to developers about that. Given them that explanation. When I talk to them about that, and give them those examples, it hits them. They understand it. There are challenges in the enterprise that we can't take for granted and assume that a simple browser update, or switching to another browser, solves the problem. There's a lot more to it.

Jen

Yeah. I've seen companies that have a huge web development team. They're working on 50 websites, literally at the same time. But they're working on public-facing websites. They're wanting to replace their main root domain website with something that's responsive. Or they want to restructure all their content and they're a media corporation site, to make sure that people coming to their site are able to find what they really want to find. Replacing the HR website so you can log in and reserve your vacation days is just such a tiny, low priority, compared to the main website for the business. It's hard to say, "That one should come before the other 49," or that the HR site should even be on the list of 50 websites. Maybe that one is number 79 and it's going to be a couple of years before anybody can get to it.

Meanwhile, everybody needs to go on vacation. Somebody has to log in and do something about it. It's frustrating. If you're the person with the budget and you only have $6.4 million to spend on web development, where are you going to spend it?

Rey

Right. And I'm a web developer. I like the shiny toys, trust me. The last thing I want to do is deal with browser hacks and quirks. I'm not interested in that. Ultimately, what I am interested in — and one of the reasons I came to Microsoft — is that I'm interested in solving problems. Those customers span a wide breadth. Everyone from the hobbyist, who wants to build something really neat — maybe for themselves, maybe for a family member — to the professional web developer in a startup or Silicon Valley, building the next billion dollar idea, to the enterprise that powers a lot of the industries that we take advantage of day-in and day-out. I don't want to dismiss any of them.

I don't think it's fair to say, "Let's force the enterprise to upgrade." Because the impact is much greater. Whether you have to include a quirk to accommodate a user, or whether your bank account is overdrawn, or your money is managed the right way. That's kind of the way I look at it. Unless you're involved in it, day-in and day-out, it's hard to have that perspective. Which is why I do my best to share that perspective.

Again, once I do, most developers say, "Oh, ok, I get it now," and they understand it. It's not that they like it. I can't say that I like being held back. Most developers get it and it changes the conversation quite a bit at that point. Then it becomes, "How do we write tools for libraries or technologies that can help folks who haven't been able to upgrade, build the next great thing?"

For example, that's why you see a lot of polyfills and shims that help mimic standards-based functionality. The great thing about those things is that, if you're able to implement them — even in an enterprise — when you're able to finally get to a standards-based browser, those things should just work. Or at the very least, the amount of code maintenance you have to do to change it should be minimal.

That's the way I think about it. If you're able to do that, that makes the bridging a lot easier, as well.

Jen

Yeah. So let's imagine Spartan is out and widely adopted. IE 11 for Windows 10 is out and widely adopted with the new EdgeHTML engine baked inside of it. Let's say at Company B, everybody is supposed to use IE 11. People are using that browser to go to all of these intranet websites for the company and everything's running fine because it's still IE and they've got all of this older stuff there.

But then when an employee comes and surfs some hot new dot com website that our listeners are building and just launched, will it automatically run the EdgeHTML engine inside, on this outside website? So, in a way, it doesn't matter that they happen to be on IE 11, because it's not the Trident engine that's running, it is actually the Spartan-flavored engine that's running?

Rey
I'm not following the question.
Jen
It seems like with shipping two browsers and both of them have both engines in them, is the idea that they're automatically going to switch back and forth? So people who are building modern, clean, new websites don't have to worry about IE 11 because it's going to be running the new rendering engine? Even though it's IE 11 and not Spartan? Does that make sense?
Rey

Kind of. Let me see if I can give you an answer. [Laughs]

Spartan, at least for us, is going to be the browser that we expect people will be using in Windows 10. That includes the enterprise. We expect they'll use it, as well.

The reason IE 11 will be included in Windows 10 is for those scenarios where the enterprise has a little bit more need for legacy extensibility. That include the things that I mentioned, like ActiveX controls, the toolbars, the Browser Helper Objects. But we firmly believe that the browser of choice for Windows 10 will be Project Spartan.

Jen
Let's say there's an employee sitting in front of a Windows 10 machine. They've got both browsers. They're required by the company they work for to use Internet Explorer 11 to open up the HR website and log in and do their work. But they've got both of them sitting right there. When they're surfing the rest of the web, and they're coming over to some great new website that's running WebGL or has CSS Shapes or something that's new that didn't make it into IE 11. Are you hoping or expecting that employee to open up Spartan and use that Spartan browser? Or are they frequently just going to use IE 11 because it's open? But then it will switch to the EdgeHTML rendering engine inside of IE 11, and therefore give you a lot of the same advantages, almost as if they were using Spartan itself.
Rey
Right. When Windows 10 ships, both Spartan and Internet Explorer 11 will be using the same EdgeHTML.dll rendering engine for the Internet. If somebody brings up, let's say my awesome blog — blog.reybango.com — and I have some really cool feature in there. That was a little pimping for my blog there. [Both laugh]
Jen
Feel free. [Both laugh]
Rey
If somebody brings up my blog in Internet Explorer 11, they should expect the same rendering experience that they would get in Spartan.
Jen
That's the key. That's the exciting thing. Because I don't care if they're using IE 11. I don't care what ActiveX control they've got running on some website that I didn't build and I had nothing to do with. I care about the website that I'm designing and building with my team. We want as many people as possible to go to it and have the kind of experience that we're hoping to create for them.
Rey

We want to have a really consistent experience and we want everybody to have the best possible experience. That's why in IE 11 for Windows 10, EdgeHTML.dll will be the rendering engine for the Internet as well.

We talked about that. Again, it's that dual rendering engine approach that allows users in the enterprise to continue to support their legacy stuff while having a modern experience, all within the same browser.

Again, the key thing for Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 10 is that it's there primarily for legacy support. The need for ActiveX controls and toolbars and all that stuff... I honestly hope that a lot of these companies are migrating away from it. But we know that some are still going to be dependent on it. We just want to provide them with an option. But we want to make sure that they can still have a great rendering experience in the Internet.

Jen
Will IE 11 be there by default? Or is it something that they'll need to add or reveal or turn on?
Rey
You know, we haven't really figured that one out yet. In terms of how Windows 10 will be presented to the user, that's something that's still being discussed.
Jen
I know what the vote of most of our listeners would be. [Laughs]
Rey
What would be the vote?
Jen
I can surmise that most people are saying, "Hide IE 11! Just hide it!"
Rey
We've heard that feedback as well. Those discussions are still ongoing. You know, it's still early in the process. This is only the second preview that we've released of Windows 10. We're trying to be very thoughtful about it. If we take a step back and talk about Windows 10, think about the feedback model. A lot of people told us that they really wanted to have a different user experience when they came into Windows. And we listened. You can see that in Windows 10. It's a very big shift in the user experience and we wanted to make sure that they understood that we listened to them.

I think that's the same approach we're taking with all the apps that we're including in Windows 10. Especially, in my case, the work that has been done in Project Spartan has been great. Some of the feedback I've received has been that the new chrome for Project Spartan brings the focus to the content and less on the browser. Can I tell you, Jen, honestly, that's one of the best pieces of feedback that I have received. Everybody worries about the look and feel of the browser and how many tabs are across. What I hope is that the browser fades into the background and a user can focus on what's important to them.

When my wife wants to look at a website, I know she doesn't pay attention to the UI and UX and all of that stuff. She wants to know that she can type in whatever site it might be — maybe she wants to visit Zulily to get something really nice for my kids, or maybe she's planning out something for work and she's looking at her online calendar to make sure that her week of meetings are set correctly. She just wants to know that she can get the information presented in the best rendered way. Everything else just fades into the background.

Again, whether you're using IE, Spartan, Chrome, whatever it is. It's irrelevant. The content should be the number one focus. That's what the user ultimately wants. The name of the browser, in most cases, is irrelevant. It's a rendering engine.

Jen
It's part of why I think it would be great — if it were up to me — to not have IE 11 be around. Because I think most people will be like, "I just need to click on the blue E. Where's the blue E? That stands for Internet."
Rey

Unfortunately, I'm not involved in those decisions. But I can say that, from my personal preference, I hope that Project Spartan is the only browsing icon that's available when we ship Windows 10. I would love that. It might just be my selfish motivation as a web developer. But I am also proud of what I'm seeing. I think users are going to be really happy with that experience.

I think IE 11 is a fantastic browser, but I'm just more excited about Project Spartan right now. [Laughs] To me, that's what I want to see. I want to be able to put it out there and show all my friends, "Hey, look, check this out." That's cool.

Jen
Like any new thing on a new operating system, you want the new thing to be the thing that's the default for people who don't really bother to make their own decision. You just want the new thing to be the cool, new default, and not default to the old one and you only get the new one if you know about it.
Rey
Yup. From a developer perspective, I really want to be able to leverage all of these great features. So I'm excited.

Rey

That's probably been the bit of feedback that developers have been the most happy about. Making sure that the new rendering engine will always be truly evergreen. That we're able to keep it up to date. Because we're basically treating Windows 10 as a service that will keep users up to date and will be deliver features via an auto-update.

All of that stuff is still being fleshed out. I don't have a lot of details to share with you, in terms of when to expect updates or how they're going to be delivered and all of that fun stuff. Again, because Project Spartan is still very new. We've only just shown it in that event last week. There's still some things that are being fleshed out. But I am happy to say that we are going to be making it an evergreen browser.

Jen
It's great. I'm sure most listeners already know, tons of updates come out all the time in Chrome. I think they just happen seamlessly. I never remember Chrome ever asking me to update anything. Firefox, tons of updates. Updates itself but usually it asks or you can say in the first couple of days, "Hey, I saw a tweet, I want it now." If you don't do that, it will update itself a couple of days later. If you don't do that, maybe you have to restart it before it updates itself. Within a couple of weeks, Firefox gets a little pushier about applying that update.
Rey
Actually, I mentioned this in a tweet today. I was with one of the Google Chrome team members. I'm actually happy that a company like Google is pushing Microsoft to rethink their business practices. When Google came out with such a fast cadence, at first it was a surprising thing, because no other browser had this really fast cadence. But it showed that it was possible. It makes some big players rethink how to put these updates out there.
Jen

It's funny, because people were very upset. I remember web developers being quite upset that the browser would update automatically without you asking the user, and kind of freaked out. "What is that going to mean? I won't know what version my users are using." Because we were all so used to thinking about things like, "Are they using Chrome 8 or 9? Is it version 6 or 7 of IE? Is it version 4 or 3 or Firefox?" Like, "What are you talking about, we won't know what version?" [Both laugh]

Now here we are, however many years later, and Firefox is up to 36 or something. Please, everyone, please, release new features every two or three weeks, push the updates automatically, and we'll just assume that everybody's on the latest version of each browser. No longer is it Firefox 2, Firefox 3, and Firefox 4. It's just, Firefox. Firefox. I don't know what the number is, I don't have time. Who cares. [Laughs]

Rey

That's another reason I'm glad that with Project Spartan, there's no version, as far as I know. I like that. I actually like that browsers are going to be iterating very fast.

It was interesting. Aaron Gustafson wrote an article about hoping that the rendering engine just fades into the background. Because that means that all of the browsers have the same high level of interoperability and they render just great. At that point, the differentiating feature of the browser becomes the chrome and the user experience. That's a very different scenario.

Ultimately — and I know I've stated it multiple times — what I want is for a webpage to render the same across any device on any form factor. Period. I don't care which browser you're using. I just want to know that if I build something, that I can reach the broadest audience possible and not have to worry about proprietary features or rendering quirks. Let the user choose the browser they're most happy with. I think that's ultimately the goal of a lot of developers who are focused on web standards.

The ability to auto-update just means that the rendering engine can get enhancements and bug fixes as needed and the user is basically oblivious to that. All they know is that they're going to get a really good experience and they're going to get the right level of updates pushed out to them. From a developer perspective, it's going to be our responsibility to keep on top of what's being pushed out.

It equally makes sure that the things that are being pushed out are standards compliant. They've been properly vetted. We need to hold all the browser vendors accountable. Microsoft, Google, Apple, Mozilla. We need to hold them all accountable to make sure the standards process is still in place. That we're putting in standards that have been properly vetted. Not just thrown out there and hoping it sticks to a wall.

Jen

It feels like in the last couple of years, there's been a bit of a rocky road and experimentation. Things have changed and it feels like the whole community of people who make web browsers and people who make websites have been finding our way. Some things have been tried and they didn't work so well, some other things were tried and they did work really well. Auto-updating browsers being one of them. Quickly releasing changes to browsers is another.

I think whether things like new features to the web — new CSS properties or new JavaScript APIs or new HTML something-or-others — we used to put those behind vendor-prefixing. We would vendor prefix all of the new CSS. Now, that's not the thing we're going to do. They'll be behind a flag so if I'm developing and trying something out, I can open up Chrome or Firefox and turn of experimental flags and mess around with this new technology. Maybe I'm on a standards body, maybe I'm on an email list. I can see, in a real browser, whether or not it's working. But it's not really public yet and nobody's using it on real websites yet. Is every user going to turn on experimental flags in their preferences? No. There's a time period there where people who are writing the specifications can play around with things and we can all give feedback. But none of it's locked down. Once the spec is mostly done, then it can get shipped in a real browser, not behind a flag. But it's already baked by that time. It feels like we've been trying all of these different things. It feels like we're at this edge where at least three out of the four major browsers — Firefox, Chrome, and now Microsoft's browser — are going to be on the same page.

One thing about the Spartan announcement, is that it seems like Microsoft is getting on that page with Mozilla and Google, in doing things in this way.

Rey
It's a great way of doing it. I'm such an advocate of that. It does ensure that developers can't... and I have to say, developers are the ones that have used the vendor prefixes. I can't lay blame on a browser vendor for putting in vendor prefixes because that was the method that was decided. I think most of those vendors were somewhat responsible in terms of creating the vendor prefixes. The drawback was, none of them actually removed the vendor prefixes from the browsers when they were either not adopted or the standard came around. They just never got rid of it. What ends up happening is, it just continued to perpetuate bad practice.
Jen
Yeah. Because it would be sort of a draft. That happened with flexbox. I think it was IE that implemented flexbox really early, but implemented an early version of flexbox behind a vendor prefix. Maybe it wasn't IE. But then, "Oh, it turns out we want to rewrite the spec." Now all of those production websites that have shipped... we can't turn off the vendor prefix, because we'll break all of those websites. So now we've got this half-baked thing that's permanently in web browsers with this prefix on it.
Rey

That's the hard part about the standards process. That's such a great example. The flexbox specification — I can't remember the exact stage it was at. Back then, I know that we were very conservative, in terms of what we were going to put in. I'm pretty sure it was far along in process, in terms of the standards approval process. We had just shipped it out in Internet Explorer 10, if I remember.

The week before we were about to ship, either the W3C or the CSS Working Group said, "We need to make a change to this." It put us in a quandary because we had already done the final copy and now we needed to ship it. So it was tough. Chris Coyier termed it perfectly: we were in a tweener stage. In between. Tweener. It was rough. You had people who had already gone ahead and said, "We're going to go down this path of using flexbox using the specification that was approved." Now there's this big, radical change. You have a tweener and developers were rightfully pissed off.

It is what it is. Thankfully, now, with some kind of auto-updating functionality, it means those types of things are much more easily addressed.

But in terms of the experimental features, I thought that was a great idea, as soon as I heard it. Where you flip a bit and there's no way to abuse that. The one thing I will say is that we have to hold browser makers responsible. I think there has to be a consensus on what the term experimental means, versus stable. Because it's easy for one browser maker to interpret something as stable while another one will totally see it as experimental. At what point does everybody say, "Alright, we can turn the bit on, and everything's stable now." If not, we run into the same situation.

Let's say Microsoft pushes out a new feature. We say, "We think it's stable. It was under an experimental flag before. We think it's stable and we're going to push it out now in a new release." But Google and Mozilla still think it hasn't been baked fully. Then it becomes a question of who's right and who's wrong?

Jen
It would be nice if there were a little bit of coordination on that. So that everybody agrees, "Ok, we're going to push it. That means we cannot change it." Gosh, what a world we would live in, if all of the browsers would suddenly get it at the same time instead of years apart.
Rey

It all boils down to interpretation. Tomorrow, Google can say that they feel ServiceWorker is ready to go. They can put it out there and then everybody else has to say, "Is it ready or not?" Mozilla may not think it's ready. Why are they going to put it out there?

Web Components is another great example. That's another one that's coming down the pike. You're sitting there saying, "Alright, there's a lot of effort that has to go into building a component model." I know Google is a big advocate of it, and for good reason. I think Web Components is going to be a great technology for the future of web development. What dictates when it's ready? Is it a specific standards model? Does it have to be a candidate recommendation across all four standards? Does it mean that all three standards have to be that? At what point do we decide that something is no longer experimental? That's the hard question. That has to be a consensus across multiple browser vendors, all with their own agenda, and all with their own business direction.

Jen
I don't see that getting any easier anytime soon. I think it's humans. It's really very human.
Rey
Yeah, and it could be subjective.
Jen
The committee and the lead on one specification just a different set of humans than the committee and lead on a different spec. One spec might be gangbusters-cowboy-crazytown and another one is very conservative and organized and slow to do anything radical.
Rey
You got it.
Jen
Even by just saying, "What state is the spec in?" It's like, "Well..." [Laughs]
Rey
Exactly.
Jen
There are specs that shipped three years ago that are still in the draft state. There are specs that have been in candidate recommendation for awhile that nobody's implemented because it seems too early to implement.
Rey
Ultimately, there's a lot of great specs that are out there, with some very interesting technologies. The good thing is that people are thinking about that. You look at something like the Gamepad API. Mozilla has the WebVR specification, which is supposed to integrate with Oculus. You think about those things and you're like, "Man, those guys are doing rocket science." I know what rocket science is. But you catch my drift. They're really thinking outside of the box.
Jen
It's crazy. Episode 96 is coming up with the folks from Mozilla and we're going to talk about WebVR. It's such a crazy conversation of, like, "Wait, what? You're going to go inside of websites in a virtual reality world?" What in the world is that going to be?
Rey
That's crazy.
Jen
Do you feel like Spartan will put the folks who are building the browser for Microsoft into a place where they're able to iterate more quickly and write new code for some of these new features more quickly? Because of Spartan? Because of ditching all of the legacy code?
Rey

I think so. I do believe that you're going to see a lot of great features coming out of the... I'm going to call them the Internet Explorer team, because that's what they are called right now. I think they're putting a tremendous amount of effort into shaping how Spartan will evolve. And how Microsoft's browser strategy will evolve. I'm expecting some really cool things coming in the next couple of years. Things are going to be so dramatic. You're going to see new features coming out, and you're going to be like, "Wow, that's Microsoft?" No matter what, you look at HoloLens, and I don't think anybody expected to see, basically, holograms from Microsoft. Hologram technology.

If we're putting this amount of effort into something like that, I can guarantee you that within Microsoft, there's a very shift in terms of how we're approaching technology and how we're approaching our customers. I'm expecting a lot of great features coming from the Internet Explorer team.

Jen
What about JavaScript rendering? That's a huge push from other browsers. I think Chrome, especially. Getting the JavaScript to render fast. Has that been a priority?
Rey

You could see that there's been progress made in the Chakra engine for some time. We've constantly been trying to push for better performance, and better support for new features — ES5 and now ES6 features. It's a continuous progress of trying to improve performance in the Chakra engine. I've been very excited.

A lot of the things that you're seeing in other engines, it blows my mind. Again, I've got to hand it to Google. When they put out V8, it really was like, "Wow, ok. They really souped-up the engine." It made JavaScript this first-class language for building very feature-rich applications, some that have a desktop-like experience.

Certainly, all the browser makers are now saying, "We need to make sure that our engines are humming along at a nice clip." You can expect Microsoft to be doing the same thing.

Jen
Nice. We were just rattling off a bunch of stuff. Do you know if there are new things? I'm looking at CanIUse and I'm waiting. "Wait, where's Spartan? Where's Spartan?" [Rey laughs] Is it going to be a new column? Or is it just going to change the label in the IE column?" Do you think there will be a lot of new support for CSS and HTML and JavaScript that we haven't seen in IE 11? Or has so much focus gone into switching rendering engines that you're just getting ready to support new features in the future?
Rey

The best place to see where we're at in the roadmap is to go to status.modern.ie. A lot of people know modern.ie, because that's where we host our virtual machines and allow people to get those virtual machines so they can test on older versions of Internet Explorer. That's where we're putting our roadmap. Most of the features are there that are either in development, have already been implemented, or are under consideration. Of course, if there's a feature that you're really, really passionate about, I think you need to hit up our UserVoice page, which is uservoice.modern.ie. That's an example of big change at Microsoft, where we're using UserVoice to gather feedback and allow people to vote for their favorite feature.

To that end, in terms of new features that we're adding - in Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10, there's already support for things like preserve-3d and Web Audio and Touch Events and all of these great things that we're looking to put into the browser.

Are we going to have new features? Absolutely. Are we ready to talk about new features that we want to put out there? Not quite yet. [Jen laughs]

Jen
Well, everyone should go vote for CSS Shapes. That will be my shameless plug. I am so excited about CSS Shapes. I've been disappointed so far because the best I can tell from the outside, Microsoft and Mozilla are not paying attention. Or it's not on their radar and not that important. Maybe other things - JavaScript-y stuff - is sexier at the moment. But man. CSS Shapes is great, and it's so simple. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard. I haven't built a browser, but... [Laughs]
Rey
You look at status.modern.ie and it really does show that we're vested in looking at some of those top features. Things like preserve-3d and Web Audio. We've gotten a lot of feedback and people want those. That's why, if you look, they're in development. It's important. We know that developers want that. We understand the use cases behind it. Web Audio would be critical for gaming. We know game developers want to hit the web and they want to figure out how to build businesses off the web, and we want to be there with them.
Jen
When will a version of Spartan for Mac ship? [Rey laughs]
Rey
Right now, Spartan is focused on Windows.
Jen
Ah. Because I think one of the things that gets frustrating about IE and probably one of the reasons - not the legacy reasons, but the modern-day reasons - why Internet Explorer can be frustrating is that many of us use Macintosh computers. We work on Macs all day. You can open up three or four browsers and test, test, test, test, test. Then you're like, "Ugh, man, I've got to go open up IE now. Ok, let me shut down every program that I can. Boot up some virtual machines. Grind my processors." They've got the fans running, they put an air conditioner on my computer while I run multiple virtual machines simultaneously to run multiple copies of Windows. Each copy of Windows is just running one copy of Internet Explorer, straight from the factory. It's frustrating. What are other options for people to do, other than that setup?
Rey

I know it's frustrating. Just so you know, I use a Mac for work. I have a Mac, a high-powered Mac, and I have a nice virtual machine running with Windows 8.1. I have a Surface tablet, which is my other main machine. So I have two main machines that I loop back and forth between.

Because so many developers are using MacBooks and OS X, I want to make sure that I understand their pain points. I can't relate to developers if I'm not using what they're using, day-in and day-out. That's why, to me, having both devices allows me to speak to both types of developers. Developers that are focused on OS X as their primary operating system and Windows developers who are using a Dell laptop or Surface tablet. To me, having both devices allows me to have conversations across the board.

But I definitely feel the pain about testing IE on a Mac. It's one of the reasons we came up with modern.ie and provide free virtual machines to make life a little bit simpler. From a financial perspective, you didn't have to make that investment. It was always easy to just pull something down and grab it.

The other thing that we did for a long time was promote BrowserStack. I still think that's a great service. If you don't want to install a virtual machine, BrowserStack is a great tool. You can also do local testing by tunneling in. I think they even got rid of their Java applet and you can use a Chrome extension now - believe it or not - to tunnel in, virtualize your IE and test your local development environment. Sauce Labs has something like that as well.

The newest initiative has been Remote IE. With that, you can get a virtualized version of Internet Explorer 11 on your desktop. For all intents and purposes, it looks like you're running a real version. It is a real version, but you're running a virtualized version of Internet Explorer on your Mac desktop.

Jen
Because it's a virtual machine in the cloud, not a virtual machine on your own person machine?
Rey
That's right. It's a virtual machine in the cloud. It uses Microsoft's Remote Desktop to remote in and creates a virtual Internet Explorer that allows you to test out what your site would look like using Internet Explorer 11.
Jen
Is that free?
Rey
That is a free service, yes.
Jen
That is kind of awesome.
Rey
Yeah.
Jen
Can you use Internet Explorer 11 to pretend that it's older versions of IE? How successful is that?
Rey

You know, that's something I haven't tested, so I couldn't tell you. Well, let me rephrase that. I have tested the document mode switching. I think that's what you're asking.

To me, this is how I always advise people about the document mode switching. A lot of developers look to that as getting around using a real version of Internet Explorer. The IE team does a really good job of creating the closest possible rendering in that specific doc mode, including trying to simulate certain bugs and hacks and quirks. But ultimately, the only way that you're going to be able to test a real-life scenario is to use a virtual machine with a real browser.

I see the doc modes and going into F12 tools and changing your doc mode as capturing the low-hanging fruit. The things that are incredibly obvious. Personally, from a developer perspective, I would not recommend that as my sole barometer for whether my site is compatible with a specific version of Internet Explorer.

I would either use a virtual machine or something like BrowserStack or Sauce Labs to go through that and test it out.

Jen
So if you need to support IE 8, it's great to be able to download a free virtual machine... you can use Parallels, VirtualBox, or VMWare. One of those is open source.
Rey
VirtualBox.
Jen

VirtualBox. That's free. Go download VirtualBox for Mac. You run that program. You can go to modern.ie and basically you're downloading a bundle of Windows and Internet Explorer already pre-installed in this zip file. You give this zip file to VirtualBox and VirtualBox goes, "Ok, great, now I have an operating system."

Which is just fantastic, because I bought a copy and then the question becomes, "I need IE 6, so that means I need Windows XP." This was back in the day. "Then I also need Windows 7 and Windows 8." I just kept buying Windows. Then the serial numbers I had didn't work and I had to keep installing them multiple times. I was like, "I can't even believe I paid for this and the serial number doesn't even work anymore!" [Rey laughs] "I'm going to go download an illegal copy!" And of course, none of those worked. [Laughs]

Rey
Exactly, exactly.
Jen
It just was like, "Ugh." Now you don't have to do any of that. Just go over here and Microsoft will give you a copy of Windows.
Rey
The key thing is to try to lower the friction to testing. We know there are pain points. That's one of the reasons we provide virtual machines. Not only for OS X, but Linux and Windows. We know that not all web developers are going to be using a Microsoft platform. A lot of them are using OS X and a lot of them are using Linux. We want to make sure that we can help them out across the board.
Jen
Even if they're on Windows, they need the other Windows, probably, to test.
Rey
Absolutely. If you're on Windows 8.1, you're probably going to need a copy of Windows 7 down the road to test IE 8, for example. Or if, for some reason, you need to test IE 6 on XP, there's a virtual machine for that. So it's there.
Jen
Plus, it means you can throw them in the trash. [Laughs] Because that's the other really terrible thing about all of these virtual machines. They take up gigabytes and gigabytes and gigabytes of hard drive space. It's like, "Ugh. I don't need this." So, fine, throw it in the trash and go get another when you need it later.
Rey
I know a lot of developers talk about the disk space. For some, it's a valid concern. I get it. The way I look at it is, the investment I made in the machine was to ensure that I could do what I needed to do as a professional web developer. The suggestion I would make is, if you're going to get a brand new machine, disk space nowadays is so inexpensive, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a sizable hard disk. It's not so much because I want you to load a bunch of virtual machines. It's just that, honestly, I'm on a Mac and I look at the amount of stuff that I have to install to be a professional developer, and it blows my mind. It's as much stuff as I would have on a Windows machine. There's no difference.
Jen
Well, it's because we all switched to flash drives. That's why. We all had plenty of gigabytes of hard drive space and then we all dropped our hard drives for flash drives. Then we had hardly any space. We're trying to cram all of the files from our last laptop onto our new laptop with a quarter of the amount of disk space. [Rey laughs] That's where the pain came from.
Rey
Listen, you guys can take all of your music and put it out on some kind of portable drive. I know there's a lot of music and all of these cat pictures. You know what? All of it can go into Dropbox or you can put them onto a portable drive. They don't need to be on your hard drive.
Jen
Mmhm. [Laughs] But you can just delete the virtual machine and... yeah.
Rey
You have a lot of cat pictures, don't you, Jen? I don't know why I'm picturing that.
Jen
I don't know what's on my hard drive now. I actually swapped out my flash drive for a new flash drive about six months ago and it was so great. I went from 128GB to 512GB. I was able to open up old external drives and pull all of the files that I used to have on my laptop, back onto my laptop.
Rey
Yeah. I love that we have a lot of portability. I hope that the amount of storage that has become available comes down in price so that we can have these ultra-thin devices with just an insane amount of storage. I look at some laptops right now, and yeah, they have the typical 7200RPM terabyte drives. But from a performance perspective, having an SSD flash drive. I mean, shoot. You can't beat that.
Jen
And once you switch, you really can't go back.
Rey

Exactly. The fact that you can close your lid and open it up and your machine is pretty much on, that's insane. I look back when I first started. I used to have an MFM drive. I'm showing my age there and lot of people will say, "MFM? Oh my god, this guy's geriatric." And it's true. [Jen laughs] That was just molasses. From the point that you had to set it up to formatting it to read speeds. Now, things are blazing fast. And even with that, we complain.

We're going to need some kind of mind-meld device that goes straight from our brain to the PC and everything just... I don't know.

Jen
People are working on it, I'm sure.
Rey
And we'll still complain about it.
Jen
So when are we going to get to stop complaining about Internet Explorer? When does this renamed browser launch?
Rey
You know, we don't have any dates yet on that. Nothing I can share in terms of dates. I hope soon. I'd love for it to be soon. That would be great.
Jen
Is it going to ship with Windows 10? So the Windows 10 release date will become the Spartan release date?
Rey
That's the plan, yes. Spartan will be part of Windows 10.
Jen
So that's the unknown. When does Windows 10 ship?
Rey
That's the unknown. A lot of people have asked about adoption of Spartan. The great thing about it is that we've made Windows 10 a free upgrade within the first year of release to anybody on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.
Jen
That's amazing.
Rey
That's huge in terms of getting good adoption numbers. That's exciting for me. That means there are going to be a lot of users that are going to be getting a very good experience in Windows 10. A lot of functionality in there. A lot of users who weren't sure about Windows 8 are going to get a much better experience, in my opinion. Then Spartan will be available to a lot more users, as well.
Jen
So there will be no version of Spartan for older versions of Windows?
Rey
That's still up for discussion.
Jen
Ah. Remains to be seen.
Rey
I don't know yet. I don't know. I just know, right now, with the free upgrade to Windows 10, I think there's going to be a lot of people on Spartan in very short order.
Jen
Are most people on Windows 8 at this point?
Rey
You know, I don't have stats on that. There's still a lot of people using Windows 7. It's a great operating system. Windows 7 is rock solid. There's a lot of people on Windows 8 and 8.1. I think there's more people on 8.1 than 8, which is great. I love that. But I don't have direct stats in terms of where people are.
Jen
Right. Are there still a lot of people on XP?
Rey
If they are, I would venture to say that's primarily in China. Again, I haven't looked at the stats for Windows XP. I would love nothing more than for Windows XP to die. It was a great operating system for 10 years, but honestly, it needs to go away. [Laughs] I don't know what the stats are on that, but China is a very heavy user of Windows XP. You can tell that by going to the IE 6 Countdown and seeing where the majority of the IE 6 users are.
Jen

I have to say, I think the usage of IE 6 dropped off much faster than I expected. It feels like Microsoft has worked very hard to tell everybody, all around the world, "Hey, we're not going to support this anymore. We do not want you using this anymore. Stop using XP. Stop using IE 6." It felt like there were two worlds of people. One is China and the other is enterprise. One has been a little more successful than the other, but I felt like both markets have changed fairly quickly given the situation and the reasons why people keep using XP.

Do you think Microsoft will continue to push people to get off earlier versions of IE?

Rey

We're been doing that proactively. In August of last year, we announced what the guidance was going to be in terms of browser support. We said that beginning January 12, 2016, we're only going to support the most recent browser version for a specific supported operating system.

For example, beginning January 12, 2016, we're looking at the following operating systems: Windows Vista SP2, which is IE9; Windows 7 SP1, which is IE 11; Windows 8.1, which is IE 11. And so on. We're looking at, "What are the operating systems that we're going to support? And what is the most recent browser version on that operating system?" That's what we will be supporting. That includes things like security fixes and bug fixes.

That's a very strong message, telling people, "We need you to upgrade. If you want to continue to receive support from Microsoft for your browser, you need to upgrade.

Jen
Especially for folks in enterprise and IT. That's a big statement. I mean, they care about those statements very deeply.
Rey

Yup. We hope they're listening and we'd like them to listen and I think they will, ultimately. I think enterprise want to continue to have support.

I always hope to enterprises to just upgrade to the latest version. They'll reap the benefits from it. But I know there are incremental costs doing that. Any time you do a major upgrade, there's more than just technology cost. There's training cost. We want to respect that, as well. We want to give them a chance to migrate in a thoughtful way. Something that's cost-effective, too.

If you think about it, there are a lot of users who are used to clicking on things based on muscle memory. Changing the position of a button changes all types of angst, which increases IT support cost, which affects bottom line.

Jen
It decreases efficiency of employees to do whatever it is they've been hired to do, if they're fussing with the software and confused about where everything is.
Rey
Exactly, exactly.
Jen
We're about out of time. What else should people know about? What else are people asking about with Spartan?
Rey

I think everybody wants to know when. [Laughs] They want to know what features. They want to know why. All the things we've talked about and we've addressed.

I would recommend, definitely visit The IEBlog. Jason Webber, the GPM for IE, has posted a really solid article that talks about the thoughts behind the new rendering engine. Jacob Rossi, who is one of the engineers on the Internet Explorer team, also posted a great article on Smashing Magazine. I'd recommend everybody take a look at that. It does answer a lot of the question that the developer community has been asking.

The other thing I would say is, be patient. Bear with us a little bit. We're working really hard on producing a solid browser. This is a very different Microsoft. A lot of people still see Microsoft as this evil corporation that brought us Internet Explorer 6. I know sometimes it's hard to rebuild a reputation but we're trying to earn the love again. I think we've done a good job of that. We still have a lot more work to do. We don't pretend that developers are all going to love us, because IE 6 was a real drag. And I'm using kind words. I guess the one thing I ask is, stay objective. Really take a look at what we're trying to produce. Give us a chance. You might be surprised.

Jen
If anybody wants to... on episode 41 of The Web Ahead, Molly Holzschlag was on. Eric Meyer interviewed her for The Web Behind series about a lot of things. All of her work on the early web. She talked extensively about how back in day, the browser wars between Netscape and IE were going on, and how IE won them and was basically the only browser we had. Then things started to shift with Firefox coming out. Molly and others were lobbying Microsoft very hard from the inside to say, "We really want you to get on board with web standards." She talks about that. She talks about meeting folks at Microsoft and the conversations that they had. I feel like that was the very, very beginning of what we're seeing now, with Microsoft completely on board with web standards, completely on board with interoperability rather than competing on different browser features. Which is what it used to be, way back in the day.
Rey
And the people on the Internet Explorer team - I can say with all sincerity - they are genuinely interested in standards. They want to have great conversations with developers. They want to produce a fantastic browser. They're real people. They're real developers that want to try to solve problems and they're doing their best. They really are. They do listen. You can see that. It's evident in the things they're trying to do. Not everything can move as fast as the developer community would want, unfortunately. It would be great if everything moved faster. But the guys are really trying. No matter what anybody thinks, I will vouch for the Internet Explorer team, because they are awesome engineers. I stand by what I said. I stand on the shoulders on giants, and those guys in the Internet Explorer team are giants. I'm fortunate to be able to sit here and talk about the web and talk about Internet Explorer and talk about Project Spartan only because they're building it. I'm not building it, they are. They're the ones who are clicking at the keyboard and sweating deadlines and things like that, and I appreciate their efforts.
Jen
Nice. People can find all of these links in the show notes for this show, which are at 5by5.tv/webahead/94, and will also be — in just a few days — at thewebahead.net/94. If you're listening to this episode on the very day that it comes out, the website will come out four days after you're hearing my voice. [Laughs]
Rey
Can I say one more thing, Jen? If your listeners want to try out Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10 right now, they can just go to insider.windows.com. From there, they can actually download the technology preview. They can also download virtual machine off modern.ie as well. That will give them access to Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10, which has the same rendering engine that Spartan has. That way, they can start tinkering around and seeing how sites render, tinker around with some new features, turn on the experimental features, all of that fun stuff.
Jen
Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Rey
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. It's always fun.

Show Notes

a screenshot of Spartan

The new Project Spartan browser, as seen on the IEBlog.

Comments

BrowserStack is awesome. Literally, I'm launching it and seeing a site in any flavor of IE (or dozens of other browser and mobile environments) within 10 seconds. VMs were killing my Macbook Pro. BrowserStack does give you 30 minutes for free. Until I started paying for it, I was creating account an on every Gmail account I had ever created, which briefly made for a fun little game.

I'm only 1/2 way through the show, but I'm a little confused about what I'm hearing about IE 11 on Windows 10.

IIRC, IE 11 / Win 10 will have both the edge and legacy renderers. Does that mean that IE 11 / Win 10 behaves differently from IE 11 / Win 7 & Win 8.1?

e.g. going to a site in the "internet zone" in IE 11 will invoke different a renderer based on the version of Windows being used?

If I've got that right I'm a bit spooked out by that from a support perspective - if a user reports a bug in IE 11 a developer might spend a long time trying to reproduce the issue against a version running in the wrong version of Windows.

Assuming all of the above is correct, calling the Win 10 browser IE 12 would seem clearer to me.

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