Chrome is edgier that you think…

December 28, 2018
Technology

Have you heard the news this week?  Microsoft has officially confirmed that they are going to be dismantling Edge and converting it into a Chromium based browser.  While the engine will change, they’ve stated that they will continue utilizing the Microsoft Edge name and will now bring the browser to all supported Windows platforms.

Built from the ground up with a new rendering engine known as Edge HTML, Microsoft Edge was designed to be fast, lightweight, and secure, but it launched with a number of issues that caused users to reject it early on.  Since its launch with Windows 10, Edge hasn’t gained much market share. The first iterations of Edge were bare-bones, offering little more than a basic tabbed browser with no extensions and little control over behavior. Early releases of Edge weren’t all that stable, making it hard to use and recommend. Three years later, Edge is greatly (but unevenly) improved. The browser engine's stability seems to be much better than it was, and performance and compatibility remain solid.

What has consistently let Edge down is the stuff around the engine. Tab handling remains rudimentary; for example, it's still all too easy for Edge to lose my carefully pinned, organized tabs, presenting me with an empty browser window. Cross-device syncing falls short of that provided by Chrome. Chrome's integrated password manager is vastly superior to Edge's. The number of extensions available is limited (though this is a little double-edged because Microsoft's carefully vetted set of extensions sidesteps the significant issues that have plagued Google with malicious Chrome extensions).

Despite these weaknesses, Edge does have its own high points: its resource usage seems to be consistently lower than Chrome's, leading to much better battery life on mobile devices. Microsoft has also developed a number of compelling security features for Edge that don't exist in Chromium.

With this announcement, Microsoft is abandoning Edge HTML and is instead building a new web browser powered by Chromium, using a similar rendering engine known as Blink, first popularized by Google's Chrome browser. Code named "Anaheim," this new browser for Windows 10 will replace Edge as the default browser on the platform.  As a result, Chrome extensions will now be available for Edge users. Even more interesting, Microsoft plans on making this new version of Edge available for ALL supported versions of Windows, including Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10.

Joe Belfiore, the Corporate Vice President for Windows, reports in a blog post:

“Ultimately, we want to make the web experience better for many different audiences. People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices. Web developers will have a less-fragmented web platform to test their sites against, ensuring that there are fewer problems and increased satisfaction for users of their sites; and because we’ll continue to provide the Microsoft Edge service-driven understanding of legacy IE-only sites, Corporate IT will have improved compatibility for both old and new web apps in the browser that comes with Windows.”

So, what happens next?  If you’re a Microsoft Edge customer, there is nothing you need to do, the Microsoft Edge you use today isn’t changing. If you’re a web developer, Microsoft invites you to join their community by installing preview builds when they’re available and staying current on testing and contributions. They expect to have a preview build ready in early 2019 for you to try for yourself.  If you’re part of the open-source community developing browsers, Microsoft invites you to collaborate as they build the future of Microsoft Edge and contribute to the Chromium project.

Microsoft will be sharing more details in the future as they develop, test, and learn.

Hal Hostetler
I am both a Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer, an IT Professional and now a published Author.

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