The next version of Internet Explorer is said to be codenamed "Spartan". The allusions to Halo from internal Microsoft names are strong this year. One exciting rumor is the ability to run native, x86 code as a browser extension. This is expected to be built upon the Xax browser plugin model, published as a white paper by Microsoft Research six years ago. Its age should be noted when reading how it discusses JavaScript compatibility and performance. A lot has happened since then.

But why would Internet Explorer need extensions? The first, and most obvious, answer is that Microsoft is trying to win back some enthusiasts to their browser (and its platforms). If Microsoft relaxes certification requirements for extensions, compared to Windows Store, it could also bridge the gap between native app and web app for enterprises, especially smaller businesses, a give them a platform without the burden of sideloading.

We might also see this being used by third parties to contribute to Internet Explorer development. In much the same way as Nokia experiments with WebCL by a Firefox extension, others could use Internet Explorer add-ons as a testing ground. In fact, according to their aforementioned 2008 paper, Microsoft Research already tested an OpenGL rendering stack in Xax.

We will probably find out more about the next IE soon.