Microsoft has wasted no time confirming the recent rumors: the Edge browser is dead. All hail the new Edge based on Google’s open-source Chromium code. The rendering engine Microsoft has worked for years to perfect is getting the boot, and the company will spend the next year building a new version of Edge (the name stays) that will run on Apple’s macOS as well as older versions of Windows.
Microsoft didn’t frame the change as a defeat in the upbeat blog post, but it’s hard to see it as anything else. The company has invested a great deal of time and money building and promoting its EdgeHTML engine, and now it’s all for naught. Microsoft even took the unusual step of nagging people to use Edge in Windows.
Google is the most prominent user of the Chromium open source code, which is the base of the Chrome browser. However, a host of other browsers like Opera and Brave also use the code base. The new Edge will soon be among them, which Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore says will ensure users get “improved compatibility with all websites.” The Chromium Blink engine is generally better supported by sites, even if EdgeHTML had some impressive optimizations for Windows 10. The revamped Edge will get much more frequent updates, too. New Chromium builds roll out every few weeks.
Moving to the open source code base will allow Microsoft to expand Edge availability. Currently, it’s limited to Windows 10, but the new version will work on the older but still very popular Windows 7 and 8. The browser should also work on macOS, but Belfiore seemed less certain about that. Windows users won’t lose all the Edge optimizations Microsoft likes to crow about, either. Microsoft plans to focus on performance and battery life while building the new browser. So, it won’t just be a Chrome clone gobbling up all your RAM.
Belfiore points out this isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into open source browsers. While desktop Edge is Windows 10 only right now, the mobile version is on both Android and iOS. Those apps use open source code because EdgeHTML doesn’t work on Android and it’s not even allowed on iOS. Previously, Microsoft developers have added code to the Chromium project to get it working on ARM-based Windows systems.
The previous rumor suggested a late 2019 release for the revamped browser, but we may get a look at it much sooner. Belfiore says a preview build for developers will start rolling out in early 2019. The consumer release is much further out.
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