The Edge browser is going Chrome

Microsoft has announced a major, forthcoming change to their Edge browser for Windows 10, one that will significantly impact the web experience for all of us (in a good way!).

The desktop version of Edge will soon be based around Google’s Chromium open-source web browsing and content rendering platform – which powers its wildly popular Chrome browser. Microsoft has decided to move away from its own web rendering platforms created to power Edge. This means that Edge’s underlying foundation will share the same fundamentals and benefits of the Chrome browser.

To be clear, Microsoft will be embracing Chromium while continuing to actively contribute to it. In other words, they’re not planning to fork Chromium for their own purposes. It’s worth noting that Microsoft has been a major contributor to many open-source software platforms over the years.

To help better understand the key advantages, here’s a broad overview of what’s happening.

  • Despite Microsoft’s active efforts to keep up with web advancements, Edge has, and continues to lag significantly behind Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, causing users and developers to shy away from it. The adoption of Chromium should eventually bring Edge right in line with these browsers.

  • Until now, Edge has only been updated about twice a year with major Windows 10 OS updates. With the adoption of Chromium, Edge will be refreshed on a much more frequent cadence, akin to the updates you see regularly with Chrome and Firefox. This of course will allow you to enjoy the latest and greatest web browsing capabilities on a regular basis.

  • Theoretically at least, it will be possible for Edge to support the vast ecosystem of Chrome extensions – one of the major reasons why users stick to Chrome as their go-to browser. Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen.

  • In addition to announcing the adoption of Chromium, Microsoft will also be making Edge available for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and even macOS. Adding to older Windows versions can really benefit users at enterprises and other organizations still not yet updated to Windows 10. IT leaders will hopefully embrace it as well, since Edge is intended to support legacy Intranet sites intended only for Internet Explorer.

But even more exciting, to me and many others, are the implications for web content creators.

  • There are a lot of exciting and leading-edge capabilities for web layout, presentation, and interaction – at or nearing final web standards completion and waiting for developers to tap into. The typical problem is that they’re readily supported by Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, but not with Edge. This reality usually holds devs back from implementing them in production. Thankfully, this is now going to be a thing of the past.

    This chart, from the caniuse.com website, exemplifies the current reality developers very often face:

    CSS Shapes is one of the many new and exciting web presentation features. Unfortunately, it’s not yet supported in Edge.
  • Developers may be more likely to explore work-in-progress CSS capabilities at an earlier stage, rather than waiting for universal browser adoption (which can take years). There are a lot of new features coming down the line, and it’s well worth learning about and experimenting with them.

  • This could incentivize web developers and content creators to push the envelope in terms of creativity and solving problems in novel ways. Over time, this can really advance the web experience for everyone with faster evolution and refinements in terms of styling, presentation, interaction, and user experience.

  • We may eventually see en masse progressions of websites and web applications, not only in their complexity but also breaking new barriers of what we can do today, and well into the future.

There are certainly some misgivings, particularly from those who lament that Microsoft’s embrace of Chromium could well make Google even more dominant in the web universe. However, the counterweighting of Mozilla, Apple, the W3C organization, and the greater open-source community should continue to help ensure an openly accessible, independent web for all.

Here’s to the future of the web!