How Microsoft Plans to Bring a New ‘Edge’ to Web Browsing
(Pictured above: Microsoft’s Divya Kumar at Build 2019 in Seattle.)
It may be an uphill battle, but Microsoft is gunning to become relevant in the browser wars again, one of many areas it was once dominant. While use of Edge, the browser that replaced Internet Explorer, is marginal, Microsoft has developed a revamped version that addresses compatibility concerns and is packed with an extensive set of new privacy controls and productivity features.
Microsoft demonstrated its overhauled Edge browser for the first time during last week’s Build conference in Seattle, where the company released the first private preview to developers. A public preview will follow in the coming months, Microsoft said. The new browser will give partners an alternative web interface to build their solutions around, while enabling users to comfortably embrace multibrowser usage models.
However, getting partners, ranging from commercial ISVs, SaaS providers and custom software integrators, interested in bringing Edge into the fold might not be easy, given its current lack of adoption. Microsoft’s IE was the dominant web browser for most of the first two decades of the web era. IE usage began to dwindle about a decade ago following the release of Google’s Chrome browser, which enabled more modern web experiences.
Given the code base in IE, Microsoft decided to start from scratch, bringing Edge to Windows 10 when it arrived in 2015. Now used for legacy applications, as of April, IE is used by less than 2.6% of all sessions worldwide. Minute as that is, even fewer use Microsoft Edge, less than 2.2%, according to StatCounter. Google Chrome is now the most widely used browser, accounting for more than 63% of sessions, with Apple’s Safari coming in at a distant No. 2, at just over 15 percent.
With nowhere to go but up, in December, Microsoft pivoted its strategy with Edge by announcing plans to replace the core EdgeHTML engine with Chromium, the same engine that’s in Google’s Chrome browser. Chromium, maintained by Google, is available under the BSD open-source license. The move also meant the end of the road for Edge UWP, the Universal Windows Platform app version of the browser.
By replacing EdgeHTML with Chromium, Microsoft signaled it would embrace an open-source approach to rendering web content, while allowing the company to position its browser as a viable alternative or companion user experience. Microsoft also is making Edge available on MacOS, in addition to support for Windows 7, iOS and Android.
The company also has become a contributor to the open-source Chromium Project, where it already has contributed ARM64 support and accessibility IP. Putting Chromium in Edge will address core browsing compatibility issues, Microsoft is reasoning, while letting it address other areas of the browser.
“I think the world is ready for another choice when it comes to web and innovation,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, speaking during the opening keynote session at Build.
“Migrating to Chromium will make Edge …