Hello readers. Hope you’re well.
I thought this deserved a quick post because it’s big news.
It’s no big secret that Microsoft has been losing the browser war for a while now. The reason is simple, others like Google and Mozilla were consistently out-innovating them. Others had features that Microsoft browsers just didn’t. I say browsers because Microsoft has two of them. The original, Internet Explorer, and the hotly anticipated, but easy to forget, Edge.
Old Edge was built from the ground up by Microsoft in 2015 using their own proprietary layout engine (known as EdgeHTML). In addition to EdgeHTML, Microsoft used their own version of WebRTC, known as ORTC. This meant that developers had to learn the nuances of the Microsoft versions of everything if they wanted to write stuff that played well there. Some tried, but ultimately not enough to make it worthwhile. Lack of innovation and extensions, plus lack of support for standards based technology meant that it just wasn’t used by many.
Just look at these stats on Browser market share for the last 12 months.
Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share
It’s also no secret that Microsoft has decided to follow the masses and abandon their own tech in favour of open source. In December 2018 Microsoft announced their “…intention to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers, and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers.”
The wait is over!
Microsoft finally launched a public preview of the new Chromium Edge browser. You can get it here. It was only released yesterday and as soon as I saw the email I installed it immediately.
You can also choose between channels for the preview. There is dev which is updates once a week and canary which is updates every day. Click here to choose your channel.
What’s it like?
I used it all day today and I already like it. The short answer is it is fast. Really fast!
It isn’t just another version of Edge. It is a version of Edge built on Chromium, with a lot of the features that users like about other browsers.
My personal favourite is profile support. Just like Chrome, you can now have individual profiles in new Edge. I use them to separate out work and personal favourites and page logins. A popular use is Microsoft Teams logins. Use a different profile for each guest tenant so you can be logged in to multiple Teams tenants at the same time and not miss all the action. Saves on tenant switching.
Old Edge had a web store for installing extensions and new Edge is no different. The list of compatible extensions in the Microsoft store is short(ish) at the moment since Microsoft is waiting on developers to rewrite the extensions to support Edge on Chromium. The list will no doubt grow over time.
But new Edge has a new trick. It can now connect to the Google Chrome web store and you can install extensions from there. And they work!
How does Teams perform?
How does Microsoft Teams work in new Edge? I hear you say. I’m glad you asked. It works well. It’s quick and responsive. But just like Google Chrome it is missing the calling app on the left rail and there is no support for peer-to-peer or PSTN calling or video (yet). You can use it to start and attend a meeting. You get the familiar popup to allow access to your webcam, mic and speakers.
WebRTC or ORTC
Since this version of Edge doesn’t include support for ORTC and voice does work (in meetings), I can only assume it uses WebRTC. What else can it be using? This in itself is a win since ORTC was only used by Microsoft in old Edge.
It supports meeting recording and playback with all the same buttons from Stream including captions and search etc. And you can dial out to a PSTN number from the meeting to add an external user. It supports the new Microsoft Whiteboard (preview) app. It also supports PowerPoint sharing, but no app or desktop sharing at present.
Usage will vary of course, but I had 9 tabs open (when I took this screen grab) and it isn’t using a ton of resource. It also fluctuates between 0% CPU and 1 point something %.
Why would I change?
I’ve been using Chrome off and on since it was launched. I fell in love with it at first for the speed and the extendability. I started falling out of love once it was clear that Google was clearly gathering everything it could about about my usage so it could feed into its advertising. If you watch the bottom left of Chrome you’ll see it cycle through dozens of URL’s while it gathers statistics. That can take ages. Sometimes it is like, enough already and give me the damn page I asked for! So there are privacy concerns.
The other is that I want to give Microsoft a chance at a browser I can use full time. I’ve been a Microsoft consultant forever so I want them to succeed. So I’ll gladly try it out until there is a reason not to.
I’ve been using it all day as my main browser and I even switched it as my default browser. I’ll keep using it and see what breaks. I have other browsers if I need them.
As I write this post in new Edge, however, it occurs to me that there is no spell checker for the text.
If you head over to the Straight from the Cutting Edge page you’ll see a list of features and known issues. Spell check is listed as a known feature.
So I guess I’ll have to open in Edge or Chrome to proof read after all.
That’s all folks!
- New Edge Insider preview page – https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/?form=MD18G6&OCID=MD18G6
- GitHub MicrosoftEdge Explainers page – https://github.com/microsoftedge/msedgeexplainers
- Wikepedia page on the interesting history of Edge – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Edge
- Microsoft Edge Insider Forum – https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Articles/We-re-Listening/m-p/407743#M7
- Microsoft Edge Insider Discussions page – https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Discussions/bd-p/EdgeInsiderDiscussions
- Straight from the Cutting Edge – https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/whats-new