First look at Spartan in Windows 10

Windows 10 build 10051 leaked to the web a few days ago.  The most salient detail about this build is that it has the new Spartan web browser.  Before you glower at me for praising Microsoft’s latest browser I need to convince you that the accolaids are merited.

Project Spartan is a major step forward for Microsoft.   As far as cutting edge support for HTML5 and Javascript, it has eclipsed Internet Explorer 11 and left the other browsers in the dust.  In fact, some web developers are lauding Spartan for having the fastest Javascript engine out there right now.  Web pages render faster and there are more robust development tools so web maseters can focus on what they do best: creating beautiful websites.

Here are the top 3 features you need to know about Microsoft newest web browser: Project Spartan.

1. Do-not-track is disabled by default

Are you aghast?

Don’t be.

So here’s the deal: in Internet Explorer 9, 10 and 11, Microsoft decided to enable Do-not-tracking (DNT) by default.  DNT was an initiative spearheaded by Microsoft with IE9 that attempted to discourage third-party advertisers from tracking users browsing habits without their consent.  In the HTTP header sent to the server, there’s a field labeled DNT that takes either the value 1 for being enabled, meaning “Don’t track me” or a 0 for being disabled which means “It’s okay to track me”.  IE9 through 11 have this field set to 1; which initially might make sense until you realize that it isn’t really a neutral position.

In other words, Microsoft is telling advertisers not to track you but according to the W3C, the governing body who controls the DNT standard:

The signal sent MUST reflect the user’s preference, not the choice of some vendor, institution, site, or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control; this applies equally to both the general preference and exceptions. The basic principle is that a tracking preference expression is only transmitted when it reflects a deliberate choice by the user

But the problem is that almost no one changes the defaults.

In others words, people are already implicitly making a choice by not making a choice.

Ultimately, the choice doesn’t matter though because the entire DNT standard is contingent on the honor system.  There’s no real way to sanction or force advertisers to subscribe to the standard.  If an advertiser doesn’t want to adhere to the rules it doesn’t have to.  So let’s say you visit CNN.com and there’s an Analytics javascript running in the background covertly culling information about your browsing activities on the site.  Even if your browser has DNT on, if the advertiser wants to track you – it can.

I don’t know how you feel about this but it’s pretty perturbing.

2. Reading View is praiseworthy

Apple users have enjoyed the Reading view in Safari for ages.  By simply clicking the tiny paragraph icon in the location bar, you could instantly strip away all the superfluous ads and image.  Only the text remains making it super easy to enjoy the websites you love without distractions.

Reading View in SafariThis same paragraph purity comes to Spartan.  The only catch is that the website has to support the Reading format.

If it does, you can dismiss the crap and focus on the content.  The reading font is more pleasant on the eyes and the background becomes a pleasant shade of beige. You can assimilate more information and this is a top feature for people who read long articles on ad-laden websites.

Check out the before and after on one of my favorite entrepreneurial websites:

Before:

Project Spartan without Reading View

After clicking the “open book” icon in the location bar:

Project Spartan with Reading View on

3. Cortana all in

Cortana is your girl next door and she’s ready for whatever you an throw at her.

Cortana in Spartan

Well, almost.

She still needs some work but the idea is that you’ll be able to right click any phrase and Ask Cortana for details.

The Bottom Line

Spartan will be the default browser in Windows 10 when it ships this summer.  Internet Explorer will still be available but it won’t open by default.  It also has a minor feature that lets you shoot links directly to other apps.  So the next time you find a cool article on fixedbyvonnie.com you can send it to OneNote.

So what do you think of Spartan?  Can it take on the big boys of FireFox and Chrome?  Is it ready for prime time?

You can read more about Project Spartan on Microsoft’s blog.

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Posted in News, Web Browsers, Windows, Windows 10 Tagged with: , , ,