One of the most interesting events in technology this last decade was Microsoft's move to the Chromium platform driven by Google for its primary browser. Microsoft had dominated the browser segment in the 1990s, approaching near-total domination, but then stopped doing much with the browser, which allowed Google to rise up and largely replace them. Their first Edge browser never seemed to reach critical mass, and IE, their prior effort, remained favored by a critical part of their installed base.
So, recognizing that the cost of reengaging in a massive browser battle with a far stronger company than Netscape and that the prior battle has massive unintended negative consequences, they followed a different path. They embraced the Chromium foundation of Google’s more popular browser and worked to create a more secure and better customer targeted variant. Given they were using Google’s technology, they couldn’t lock Google out, which was at the core of Google’s reasoning for creating a browser in the first place, so Google was OK with this.
The Edge Chromium browser went into an extended beta that I participated in with tens of thousands of others, and I’ve been very impressed with this offering. It has become my default browser, and it just was released in its approved form.
Now before I get started, let’s deal with some obvious concerns. Companies with IT departments that manage software loads are in full control of the Edge upgrade over their managed devices. For those that don’t want the update, initially, it is an opt-in process to get it. But, eventually, it will come with a future Windows 10 update because Microsoft is discontinuing the old Edge browser. But if you don’t use Edge, it shouldn’t be a problem, and if you are one of the few who do use Edge a lot, you’ll see a big jump in compatibility. I’ve been using this browser as myself as my primary browser for months now and have rarely had to default back to the Chrome browser that had been my default in the past.
If you want to upgrade Edge before the Windows 10 update, which will start a slow rollout around the 28th of January (Microsoft insiders will see this on the 21st), and it will go through May, you can go to https://www.microsoft.com/edge. (Microsoft is going to ease the automatic update for his out slowly so that, if there is a problem that isn’t caught by the early adopters for Beta users, they won’t have millions of issues to solve at once). Once installed, it should update itself on a 6-week cadence, which I’ve found to be pain-free so far. More information on Microsoft’s rollout plans can be found here: https://blogs.windows.com/msedgedev/2020/01/15/upgrading-new-microsoft-edge-79-chromium/.
Other resources for companies looking at deployment include the Enterprise upgrade site at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/edge/business/download; instructions on how to get your websites ready for the new Microsoft Edge at https://blogs.windows.com/msedgedev/2019/11/04/edge-chromium-release-candidate-get-ready/; and a collection of web developer documents which can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/.
Features that Enterprise Customers will be excited about and those that users (Consumers) will be excited about are very different.
Enterprise features: Single Sign-on with Azure Active Directory (AAD), Internet Explorer mode for legacy sites, enterprise-grade PDF support with information protection, Search and Bing integration (search for internal and external information from one place), and a new Enterprise Tab page. I know, be still my beating heart, but IT folks should like these. For those of us who don’t have to deploy this but use it features include: Tracking prevention, full sync with your older browser, new tab customization, ability to view, edit, share and save PDFs (including the ability to fill out forms without having to print the damn things out), 4K streaming and Dolby support on Windows 10, and a much-improved reader.
New Edge experience
The first thing you’ll notice is this thing is fast, particularly if you’ve been using Microsoft's old Edge or IE browsers. Be aware that some aggressive security programs will slow the browser down if they are looking for hostile web sites before you load them but, by itself, the browser is 2x as fast as the old Edge, and you’ll notice the speed.
It seems to move seamlessly between old IE and new Chromium-based web sites, and I’ve only had a few older transactional sites give me problems. In most cases, I’ve had similar issues with Chrome on those sites, so I think the causes are a broader problem.
Migration is easy, and your favorites, IDs, and Passwords seem to come across from Edge completely. You can also migrate them in from other browsers, and the Edge browser will eliminate duplicates but, be aware if you have an old password in one browser and a new one in another, there is a chance the new one will get overwritten. But just put in the new password and allow Edge to remember it, and you should be good to go.
It seems to work well with Chrome-based extensions, and Grammarly, my go-to editor, loaded without issue and seems to work with most of the social media sites and forums I use. Some of the features like being able to copy and past out of the browser into Office 365 and have the result automatically format aren’t enabled yet, but I’m looking forward to them.
Overall I’ve been very pleased with this browser, it has become my new default, and it is a ton easier than using IE, Edge, Chrome, and Firefox, which had been until installing the new Edge browser.
Wrapping Up: Piece of History
The most interesting part of this new browser is that it showcases how much Microsoft has changed. At one time, even suggesting the company use either an Open Source technology or a competitor's technology would have fast-tracked you to an early retirement there, and now both ideas are embraced at the firm and the result is a far better product from the standpoint of compatibility. The New Edge Browser is a standing showcase that cooperation and focuses on what the customer wants is a good thing.
This new browser is an amazing piece of history and points to just how much Microsoft has changed, changes that continue to be showcased as critical to the firm’s success now if we could get Microsoft to convince the US government to adopt these same concepts.