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Browser Wars – Future of Microsoft Edge


At the end of last week, Microsoft revealed that the Edge browser built into Windows 10 is moving from the EdgeHTML rendering engine to Chromium. This was hardly news to anyone following tech news and Windows 10 development. But just as Windows 10 is quite close to overtaking Windows 7 as the most popular PC operating system, more and more users are abandoning Edge. It currently has barely 4% market share. Compared to the Windows 10’s market share — currently at over 38% — this means that more than 90% of W10 users run a third-party browser instead of Edge.

I belong to that small minority of Windows 10 users who like and use Edge regularly. I have used it as my main browser since October 1st, 2014 when the first Windows 10 Technical Preview emerged. One reason why adopting Edge has been easy for me is that I generally use or need very few add-ons or extensions. For instance, as a matter of personal principles I have never used any ad-blockers, nor can I conceive of using one in the future. Everything I need for my browsing is available without any extensions. There are only two exceptions, I just love two Office 365 related extensions in Edge: Office Online and the OneNote Web Clipper.

However, I fully understand that users like me, who love Edge as it is at the moment and use it as their main browser are not only a minority, but also not a big enough audience for Microsoft to cater to our needs by maintaining the current status quo. The whole Windows ecosystem would and will benefit if Edge market share gets at least close to that for Windows 10.

That said, Microsoft is not totally abandoning EdgeHTML. Existing UWP and PWA apps will continue using it. Here are some quotes from Kyle Alden, the MS Edge Project Manager on Reddit:

- Existing UWP apps (including PWAs in the Store) will continue to use EdgeHTML/Chakra without interruption. We don't plan to shim under those with a different engine. We do expect to offer a new WebView that apps can choose to use based on the new rendering engine.
- We expect to provide support for PWAs to be installed directly from the browser (much like with Chrome) in addition to the current Store approach. We're not ready to go into all the details yet but PWAs behaving like native apps is still an important principle for us so we'll be looking into the right system integrations to get that right.
- It's our intention to support existing Chrome extensions.

The final point in the preceding snippets is what makes this interesting: in the near future, Edge users will gain access to, and be able to use Chrome extensions. Much like the way Windows 10 Mobile withered mostly because of a lack of apps, Edge as it is today could easily perish because of a lack of extensions.

Moving to Chromium brings other benefits, too. For one thing, this transition makes possible to use Edge on a Mac. For another, I believe it may also bring Edge Linux in the future. Microsoft has worked hard to expand its ecosystem. Today, you can already configure an Android device almost as if it were a Windows Phone with Microsoft Launcher, Office and Edge. Chromium-based Edge move Windows apps and capabilities one step closer to working seamlessly on other operating systems.

It’s possible that users might not even notice these changes, as Edge continues working as it always has. Such changes will probably appear in a feature upgrade: my guess is version 19H2 (1909) in the final quarter of next year. Before that, probably in spring 2019, Windows Insiders should have a Chromium-based Edge to play with. Stay tuned!

Read more: Microsoft Edge and Chromium Open Source: Our Intent

Kari

Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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