Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has announced that future versions of its Edge web browser will be built on Chromium. Chromium is an open source browser project originated by Google, which uses it for Chrome. The browser engine is Blink, which was forked from WebKit in April 2013.
There is plenty of logic behind the move. The immediate benefit to Microsoft in having its own browser engine is rather small. Chromium-based Edge will still have Microsoft’s branding and can still have unique features. It opens an easy route to cross-platform Edge, not only for Android, but also for MacOS and potentially Linux. It will improve web compatibility because all web developers know their stuff has to run properly in Chrome.
This is still a remarkable moment. The technology behind Edge goes right back to Trident, the Internet Explorer engine introduced in 1997. In the Nineties, winning the browser wars was seen as crucial to the future of the company, as Microsoft feared that users working mostly in the browser would no longer be hooked to Windows.
Today those fears have somewhat come to pass; and Windows does indeed face a threat, especially from Chrome OS for laptops, and of course from iOS and Android on mobile, though it turns out that internet-connected apps are just as important. Since Microsoft is not doing too well with its app store either, there are challenges ahead for Microsoft’s desktop operating system.
The difference is that today Microsoft cares more about its cloud platform. Replacing a Windows-only building block with a cross-platform one is therefore strategically more valuable than the opportunity to make Edge a key attraction of Windows, which was in any case unsuccessful.
The downside though (and it is a big one) is that the disappearance of the Edge engine means there is only Mozilla’s Gecko (used by Firefox), and WebKit, used by Apple’s Safari browser, remaining as mainstream alternatives to Chromium. Browser monoculture is drawing closer then, though the use of open source lessens the risk that any one company (it would be Google in this instance) will be able to take advantage.
Internet Explorer was an unhealthy monoculture during its years of domination, oddly not because of all its hooks to Windows, but because Microsoft stagnated its development in order to promote its Windows-based application platform (at least, that is my interpretation of what happened).
Let me add that this is a sad moment for the Edge team. I like Edge and there was lots of good work done to make it an excellent web browser.
2 thoughts on “The end of the Edge browser engine. Another pivotal moment in Microsoft’s history”
I think you forget the most apparent reason this move is happening. The Edge team has not been able to create a viable browser in over 5 years time.
Edge now works at some level, but it still has so many problems, arguable the same problems other browsers had in the IE time, but nonetheless, problems for the user who really doesn’t care.
Chrome showed how to do this, in basically no time they went from no browser to a working browser, starting with the essentials. Edge did not, and still hasn’t gotten the essentials working, thus MS is left with not much choice.
To me the Edge team (or web teams) is a large reason for many of Microsoft’s failures, they have had too much influence on the strategic parts, at least effectively, SL, Win 8 platform, WinJS and absolutely no concern for .Net basically working against Microsoft’s own interest. So many devastating decisions were made in 2010-2011 span or leading up to that so slightly earlier. They are still recovering from that..
The edge team worked their own engine out of existence in my opinion.
I use Edge all the time and don’t have many problems. It may depend on your usage pattern?
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