The rumors were true: Microsoft Edge is migrating to the open source Chromium platform, the same platform that supports the Google Chrome browser. And once that's done, Microsoft is bringing the Edge to MacOS as well. In addition, Microsoft is unlinking Edge from the Windows upgrade process to provide a faster update cadence – and with that, it will also bring the new Edge to Windows 7 and 8 users.
It's going to take a while before that happens. There is no code to test today and the first few views are still months away. But sometime in 2019, EdgeHTML and Microsoft's Chakra will disappear and Blink and V8 will take their place. The company hopes to launch a first preview for developers early next year.
Obviously there is a lot to unpack here. What is clear, though, is that Microsoft is recognizing that Chrome and Chromium are the de facto standard today for both users and developers.
Over the years, especially after Microsoft left the brand of Internet Explorer behind, Edge has for the most part become a perfectly usable browser, but Microsoft recognizes that there have always been compatibility issues. Although I was investing heavily in fixing them, what we are hearing from Microsoft is a very pragmatic message: it simply was not worth the investment in engineering resources anymore. What Microsoft had to do, after all, was reverse engineering around problems on certain sites.
This is partly because Edge never gained market share where developers cared enough to test their code on the platform. And with the web as big as it is, the long tail of incompatible sites remains great.
Because many Web developers work on Macs where they do not have access to the Edge, testing for it has become even more complicated. Hence Microsoft's efforts to bring Edge to the Mac 15 years after it had abandoned Internet Explorer for Mac. The company does not expect Edge on the Mac to gain a significant market share, but believes that making it available on all platforms means more developers will also test their Web applications with Edge.
Microsoft also admits that it did not help Edge work only on Windows 10 – and that the Edge updates were tied to Windows updates. I was never sure why, but as Microsoft will now recognize, this means that millions of users in older versions of Windows have been left behind, and even those in Windows 10 have often not received the latest and most compatible version. of Edge, because their companies have remained some updates back.
With this move, Microsoft also plans to increase its involvement in the Chromium community. This means that this will bring Chromium some of the work it did to make Edge work great with touch screens, for example. But also, as previously reported, the company now publicly notes that it is working with Google and Qualcomm to take a native Chrome browser implementation to Windows 10 on ARM, making it faster and more battery-friendly than the current version which depends heavily on emulation.
Microsoft hopes that if it can make compatibility issues a thing of the past, users will still gravitate to the browser because of what sets it apart. Maybe it's the integration of Cortana or new integrations with Windows and Office. Or maybe these are new consumer services or, for business users, specific features that make life easier for IT managers.
When rumors of that change first surfaced a few days ago, several experts argued that this is not good for the web as it gives even more power over Web standards to the Chromium project.
I share some of these concerns, but Microsoft is making a very pragmatic argument for this move and notes that Edge's small market share did not allow that to affect this process. By becoming more active in the Chromium community, it will have more voice – or at least it is what it expects – and will be able to defend Web standards and bring its own innovations to Chromium.
You are handThe wser is probably the most complex software running on your computer now. This means that engine replacement is anything but trivial. The company is not detailing how the development process will be and how it will be done, but it tells us that the company is analyzing which parts of the Edge experience should be maintained and will then work with the Chromium community. to bring them to the Chromium engine as well.
Microsoft points out that it's not giving up on Edge, by the way. The browser is not going anywhere. If you are a happy Edge user today, that change is likely to make you an Edge user even happier in the long run. If you do not want it, Microsoft expects you to give it a new look when the new Chromium-based version is released. It is from Microsoft now to create a browser that is differentiated enough to get people to try another.