On Wednesday, all Windows 10 machines currently running Microsoft Edge will be updated to use Chromium-based Edge. It’s the end of Microsoft’s last attempt to create an alternative to Chrome, and I’m somewhat sorry to see it go.
It’s not that I ever particularly liked Edge. It’s never worked all that well and it seems to struggle rendering ordinary websites that neither Chrome nor Firefox have issues with. From the launch of Windows 10 up until now, Edge has used the EdgeHTML proprietary rendering engine, which was intended to be fully compatible with WebKit-based products (Safari, Chrome, various others).
As for Microsoft, the company made the decision to go Chromium for a variety of reasons, including market share, reach, and developer interest. Edge didn’t build market share or receive updates quickly enough to keep up with Chrome, according to an extensive interview with The Verge. Personally, I’d argue that one reason Edge failed to gain much traction with techies is because of how aggressively Microsoft shoved it at you. Resetting favorites to Microsoft defaults and telling users that other browsers are unsafe aren’t tactics that build trust with techies and power users. Microsoft used both.
When EdgeHTML failed to catch on, Microsoft made the decision to retool its browser around Chromium, the same open-source standard that Google uses for Chrome. On the surface, this is a good thing — it guarantees greater compatibility and interoperability among software products.
The problem is, Google now controls an even larger share of the market than it did before. Firefox is the only independent browser company left standing, and it’s down to a slim share of the market. Historically, allowing a single company to dominate an industry doesn’t produce optimal results for users. Inevitably, changes and improvements begin to be suggested that ultimately favor the incumbent rather than benefiting the end-user. Whether Google has already reached that point is a matter of personal opinion, but the company has taken considerable fire in various controversies in the past few years. Firefox has been making a major push to brand itself as the only browser developer that actually takes privacy seriously. Whether that will boost the company’s user base isn’t clear yet.
End-users are supposed to barely notice any change from the switchover, so we’ll just see how that goes.
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