July 17, 2013 6:58 am

The Companion Web: The Internet And How We Use It Is Evolving

We’re at a tipping point with connected devices. Every day, 3.6 million mobile devices and tablets are activated worldwide. That’s over five times more than the number of babies born each day! Because so many of these devices can access the internet, we’re incredibly excited to share what we see as a natural evolution in the web, something we call the Companion Web. The Companion Web is all about a world where experiences move seamlessly across the multiple screens around us – our tablets, phones, computers, and televisions. To help illustrate this, we worked with our friends at Polarto create a Companion Web experience that spans multiple screens offering you the ability to view and voice your opinion based on the content you’re watching.


In the US, most of us spend a lot of time in front of some form of connected screen. And, we’re often using more than one screen at a time. For example, more than 80% of smartphone-owning Americans use it while watching TV. Of those smartphone users, 4 out of 5 use their phone to look up content relevant to what they’re watching. It’s natural to use these devices together – making richer connections to what we’re experiencing. But here’s the problem: the majority of sites on the web are built for only one device at a time. And while we move between our multiple screens, we have to do the work to piece together a unified experience. But what if we didn’t have to search on our tablet when we saw something interesting on TV, but instead the information we were looking for came to us? Content owners are starting to connect the dots, and they’re doing so through the Companion Web.

Regardless of who makes the device or software that powers the device, the Companion Web enables the internet to bridge the gap between these devices. For developers, Companion Web represents an opportunity to reuse code that works across multiple scenarios, enabling greater reach and ways to engage an audience. For consumers, Companion Web means you’ll seamlessly move from one device to the next, interacting with your photos, videos, music, movies, television shows, files, and more.

At Microsoft, we’re not new to Companion Web experiences. Xbox SmartGlass is a pioneer in letting you interact and engage with media in your living room using your Xbox 360. We want to take the success of Xbox SmartGlass and make this rich experience accessible outside of Xbox and to everyone using the web. So, we’re investing in technology that enables web designers and developers to start realizing the potential of Companion Web experiences. Over the past six months, the Internet Explorer team has experimented with multi-screen, Companion Web scenarios in the real world. DailyBurn used a smartphone or tablet to interact with and control workouts viewed through your television. Mix Partyallowed numerous individuals to influence a music playlist together at a party through their phones.

Today, our friends at Polar launched their Companion Web experience. What’s unique about how Polar used the Companion Web is that it allows their site to complement what you’re watching on the big screen. In particular, it demonstrates the potential of the Companion Web in that it not only looks good on different sized screens – smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions – but also works great with different kinds of input– touch, mouse, and keyboard. You can leave it up alongside a film, TV show, or video and keep up with new opinions and questions as they appear in real-time, or use any device with a web browser to control what’s on display. When you scroll, vote, or switch topics with your device, the big screen experience immediately responds to your actions.

We’re going to keep spending time in front of our many screens, and the Companion Web emphasizes our ability to engage with the media we’re consuming. This is just the beginning. The Companion Web represents an incredible evolution of the web to work with the way we use our devices. Stay tuned over the coming months for more exciting news about Companion Web experiences. And if you’re interested in learning more about how you can get started with the Companion Web, stay tuned to our Internet Explorer @IEDevChathandle on Twitter.

//Bryan Saftler

Senior Product Manager, Internet Explorer

Updated November 8, 2014 2:15 am

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