Mi­crosoft Edge em­braces open­source Chromium code, plans move to Win­dows 7, 8, and Macs

This move holds ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the World Wide Web.

PCWorld (USA) - - News - BY BRAD CHA­COS

Mi­crosoft is over­haul­ing its strug­gling Edge browser in pretty much ev­ery way over the next year. The pro­pri­etary EDGEHTML en­gine un­der­pin­ning the browser will be aban­doned in fa­vor of the Chromium code used by Google’s Chrome and sev­eral other browsers. Af­ter the shift, Mi­crosoft plans to end Edge’s Win­dows 10 desk­top ex­clu­siv­ity by bring­ing it to Macs and older ver­sions of Win­dows.

How Chrome-like will Mi­crosoft’s ver­sion of Chromium be? Enough that Chrome ex­ten­sions will run on top of it, Mi­crosoft Edge project man­ager Kyle Alden re­cently wrote on Red­dit ( go.pcworld.com/mkwb). Ex­ist­ing Pro­gres­sive Web Apps (web apps that feel like Win32 apps) will con­tinue to run and be down­load­able from

the Mi­crosoft Store, he added.

“Peo­ple us­ing Mi­crosoft Edge (and po­ten­tially other browsers) will ex­pe­ri­ence im­proved com­pat­i­bil­ity with all web­sites, while get­ting the best-pos­si­ble bat­tery life and hard­ware in­te­gra­tion on all kinds of Win­dows de­vices,” Joe Belfiore, cor­po­rate vice pres­i­dent of Win­dows, said in the blog post an­nounc­ing the shift ( go.pcworld.com/wbet). He also touted com­pat­i­bil­ity ben­e­fits for web de­vel­op­ers and cor­po­rate IT ad­min­is­tra­tors.

Why this mat­ters: The shift makes sense.

The Win­dows-ex­clu­sive Edge has been hem­or­rhag­ing users de­spite be­ing Win­dows 10’s de­fault (and Mi­crosoft’s heavy-handed at­tempts to con­vince users to stick with Edge when you at­tempt to down­load ri­val browsers). De­spite de­vel­op­ing strengths in re­cent years, such as ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and bat­tery life, Edge started out on the wrong foot at Win­dows 10’s launch, lack­ing many of the mod­ern fea­tures users ex­pect. The browser never re­cov­ered, and given Chrome and Chromium’s mas­sive mar­ket share, de­vel­op­ers started pri­or­i­tiz­ing that en­gine in­stead. Chrome is the new In­ter­net Ex­plorer 6 ( go.pcworld.com/din6).

That said, there are con­cerns about one browser project dom­i­nat­ing the web. “This is ac­tu­ally…bad news for browser ecosys­tem health,” Stack Over­flow and Stack Ex­change co­founder Jeff At­wood wrote on Twit­ter ( go. pcworld.com/bdbr) when ru­mors of the change sprouted ear­lier this week. “Qua­dru­pling down on Chrome as the de­fault HTML en­gine every­where isn’t the right way to go.”

Chromium’s sta­tus as an open-source browser may al­le­vi­ate some of those fears, and Belfiore says Mi­crosoft will lean into code con­tri­bu­tions. “Our goal is to do this in a way that em­braces the well-es­tab­lished open source model that’s been work­ing ef­fec­tively for years: mean­ing­ful and pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions that align to long-stand­ing, thought­fully de­signed ar­chi­tec­ture, and col­lab­o­ra­tive en­gi­neer­ing,” he wrote.

NO LONGER AN EDGE CASE

Edge will break free of its Win­dows 10 shack­les as part of the move. The browser will be up­dated on its own, sep­a­rate from Win­dows 10’s ma­jor twice-an­nual up­dates, and will come to Win­dows 7 and 8. “We also ex­pect this work to en­able us to bring Mi­crosoft Edge to other plat­forms like macos,” Belfiore wrote. Last year, Edge ap­peared on IOS and An­droid ( go.pcworld.com/edbr).

Mi­crosoft’s core browser run­ning on Macs! Hell hath truly frozen over—though it re­mains to be seen how suc­cess­ful the move will be con­sid­er­ing the su­perb state of mod­ern brows­ing. Edge doesn’t even crack the top three in our roundup of the best web browsers ( go.pcworld.com/18wb), fall­ing be­hind Chrome, Opera, and Fire­fox. Chrome and Opera both rely on the Chromium project as well. Look for Edge to shift over to the open-source en­gine some­time in 2019.

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