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Internet Explorer 12 to shed legacy cruft in bid to BEAT Chrome

Windows 10 will ship with two-pronged browser - report

Microsoft has been working on a new scheme to strip away some of the legacy bloat that has burdened its Internet Explorer web browser, sources claimed.

According to the prolific Redmond rumormongers at Neowin, the software giant has forked the code for IE's Trident rendering engine into a new, leaner version that should consume fewer resources – and Windows 10 will ship with both versions.

Microsoft has been crowing about the web standards compliance of IE11 for some time now. The problem is, enterprises have been coding their bespoke web applications around IE's nonstandard quirks and idiosyncrasies for so long that they break when accessed using a modern version. Even some of Microsoft's own products have fallen into this snare.

It's a big part of the reason why truly awful browsers like IE6 have lingered around for so long, even though everyone knows they're buggy, render standards-compliant pages poorly, and are rife with security holes.

To help convince these stragglers to upgrade, Microsoft has included a "Compatibility View" in recent versions of IE that, when activated, renders pages the way earlier versions would (instead of how a standards-compliant browser should).

The trouble is that this requirement saddles IE with a bunch of legacy code that the developers of competing browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera don't have to worry about.

If Microsoft really is planning to split Trident into two separate DLLs for Internet Explorer 12, then, it would make a lot of sense. A version of Trident that's stripped of Compatibility View would free its developers to work more quickly to compete with other modern browsers, leaving the maintainers of the legacy version of Trident to integrate their changes as time permits.

According to Neowin, the leaner version of Trident would be the one that's invoked by default, and the browser would only fall back to the version with Compatibility View if either the user or the application specifically requested it.

That strategy should also give IE12 a smaller overall resource footprint, which in turn could help to give Windows 10 a smaller footprint than Windows 8.1 – which itself has a smaller footprint than Windows 7.

A version of Trident that does away with Microsoft's legacy cruft could also pave the way for new features. For example, one rumor from earlier this year claimed that IE12 will include a new extensibility mechanism that's less like Redmond's ActiveX-based plugins and more like Chrome's JavaScript-based extensions.

If true, that could restore extensibility to the touch-centric Modern version of IE – something that has been sorely missed, particularly by those who won't surf without an ad blocker installed.

One even more out-there rumor has it that the version of Trident without Compatibility View won't be used for IE12 at all, but for a completely new Microsoft browser that's currently going under the codename "Spartan."

According to Redmond-watcher Mary Jo Foley, this new browser will feature not just a stripped-down rendering engine but also a leaner UI, so it doesn't just behave like Chrome and Firefox but also looks more like them.

We haven't heard much to corroborate that theory here at El Reg – and IE11's UI is pretty, er, Spartan as it is – but who knows? Starting from scratch sounds like a lot better an idea than just changing the name and hoping nobody notices.

Just don't expect IE12 or Spartan to be the final nail in the coffin for terrible, legacy IE-based web apps. To appease its customers, Microsoft has pledged to support a broad range of bad-idea configurations until January 12, 2016, and IE11's Enterprise Mode will linger on through 2020.  ®

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