If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That's Microsoft's new motto when it comes to browsers. The company is going to adopt the Chromium open source browser internals and replace the guts of its Edge browser with them.
Microsoft announced this engineering change Dec. 6. Earlier this week, Windows Central reported that Microsoft planned to ditch Edge and replace it with a new Chromium-based browser.
Microsoft is planning to create a new version of Edge by using Chromium combined with some components currently in Edge, all in the name of providing greater browsing compatibility across the web. (According to this recent Edge job post, Microsoft is taking a microservices/componentized approach to Edge development as it moves forward.)
Chromium is an open-source browser implementation that is used as a base by a number of browser developers, including Google (with its proprietary Chrome browser), Vivaldi, Opera, Yandex, Brave, and more. Simultaneous with the launch of Chrome in 2008, Google released the bulk of Chrome's code as open source, birthing Chromium in the process.
As part of this work, Microsoft plans to make the new Edge browser available on Windows 7, 8.1, 10 and macOS, officials said. While Edge will continue to ship with Windows 10, Microsoft finally will be updating it independently of the operating systems on which it runs, meaning it will be updated and patched more frequently than Edge is now.
For current Edge users on Windows 10, it's business as usual. Users don't need to do anything to prepare for the coming change. Once Edge is updated, hopefully they will only notice that sites and apps they visit using Edge will work better and faster. Users of Edge on iOS and Android won't be affected, as those Edge browser apps already use the WebKit and Blink rendering engines tied to those OS platforms, not EdgeHTML.
Developers will have the option of trying out the new Edge starting in early 2019 when Microsoft releases a first preview of the updated browser. One of Microsoft's stated reasons for moving to Chromium is to make developers' lives easier -- by enabling them to build and test against Edge just like they do other cross-platform, Chromium-based browsers.
Microsoft officials haven't said when they expect the new Edge to roll out to the mainstream, but it won't be anytime very soon, based on this schedule.
Microsoft intends to contribute features back to the open-source implementation of Chromium in areas where the company has done some differentiating work, such as around browser accessibility, touch optimization, and work around optimizing Chromium for ARM, company officials said.
- Microsoft Edge has a dark mode. Here's how to turn it on (CNET)
- From 1990s Internet Explorer to Edge: Classic Windows browsers (TechRepublic)
Does Microsoft's new direction with Edge mean Edge finally will be available from the Microsoft Store? I hear the answer is no. Even though Microsoft officials have said over the years that their plan was to make Edge a Store app, it sounds like Microsoft intends to make it available as a download for non-Windows 10 platforms and not as a Store app for consistency's sake.
And for those wondering if today's announcement means non-Microsoft, Chromium-based browsers -- including Google Chrome -- may be coming to the Microsoft Store, the answer is maybe, but at least right now, it seems unlikely.
Why is Microsoft continuing to try to gain adoption for its own browser, in spite of Edge's continued tiny market share? The most-used desktop app continues to be the browser.
Previous and related coverage:
The world of web renderers could be down a significant member should Microsoft can its EdgeHTML renderer.
Chrome 70 opens up progressive web apps to Windows 10 users who don't want to use Edge or Microsoft Store.
Microsoft's successor to its 'Andromeda' dual-screened foldable device is codenamed 'Centaurus.' It's just one element of Microsoft's evolving Chromebook-compete strategy.