Microsoft Edge goes Chromium

The new Microsoft Edge browser.

Microsoft’s next Edge browser uses the Chromium engine designed by Google.  

For years Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) dominated the market. Why? Because Internet Explorer came with Windows. It was the default, the standard. So much so, that many companies built their entire network around IE. Third-party browser Netscape Navigator which ruled the market in the early 90s quickly fell in Microsoft’s shadow. IE was free while Netscape cost as much as US$49.

 Surface Laptop computer on a desk, showing a Bing webpage in a Microsoft Edge browser
New Microsoft Edge browser (Photo: Microsoft)

However, Microsoft got lazy and didn’t innovate on its browser for years. With basically no competition, they relaxed.

In September 2008, Google Chrome came on the scene and instantly breathed new life into web browsing. The modern browser incorporated the Google-designed Chromium engine; an open-source project designed with speed, security, stability and compatibility in mind. Chrome was (and still is) faster and safer than Internet Explorer. Additionally, it had cool features like tabbed browsing and HTML5 support.

PC browser market share. (Photo: StatCounter)

Microsoft tried to respond to Chrome with its (older version of) Microsoft Edge, (which, to be fair, was better than Internet Explorer) but it was too late. Today, Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world. At over 68% market share, its closest competitor is Mozilla Firefox with a 9.25%. Microsoft wants a piece of the pie.

The new Chromium-based Edge browser is in beta and looks a lot like Google Chrome. But Microsoft has made some noticeable tweaks that set Edge apart.

The browser seems to sip RAM instead of gulping gigabytes for multiple open tabs.

Firstly, Microsoft has changed Edge’s logo; probably to separate the new browser from the haunting memory of Internet Explorer. The new design features semi-circle with a blue to green gradient colour scheme that looks like the letter “e”.

Edge is faster than ever before. It’s about as quick as Google Chrome. Also, the browser seems to sip RAM instead of gulping gigabytes for multiple open tabs.

HTML5 compatibility is better thanks to the Chromium engine. (Photo: HTML5 Test)

HTML5 compatibility scores are on par with Google Chrome (thanks to the Chromium engine). There’s also support for legacy web pages built around Internet Explorer.

Security is improved with tracking prevention with security modes you can change in the settings.

Dell computer showing multiple browser tabs in Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge has easy tools to preview, group, and save tabs. (Photo: Microsoft)

The Immersive Reader mode strips away annoying ads and presents the words and pictures of an online document in its purest form for easy reading.

The browser can also read text directly from a webpage. I found this feature especially useful with long documents or stories. There’s also the option to change the virtual reader’s voice to a few built-in options. They sound remarkably human with inflexions and intonations. It is genuinely a neat feature.

Microsoft is also targetting businesses with smart Bing search integration. Users can use Bing to search their company’s intranet for co-worker contacts, company codes and even floor plans.

The beta is available for many platforms. (Photo: Microsoft)

The browser includes Bing translator. Web pages displayed in another language need not turn you away. The translator intelligently identifies the language then asks if you’d like it translated.

Microsoft will separate the browser from its Windows OS, and the new Edge will be available for Android, iOS, Windows 10 and Mac devices.

Images of iOS and Android tablets and phones with the Edge browser on the screens

The final version of the Chromium-based Edge browser comes out on January 15, 2020, but you can try out the new Microsoft Edge release candidate at https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/.