Microsoft recently announced that the new Edge browser would use the Chromium rendering engine. What it means for developers, end users and how will this affect the browser industry and the internet itself?

What exactly is happening?

Microsoft is starting to recognize how open source can benefit the development process and positively affect R&D budget. In the past few years, Microsoft was developing Edge browser, a successor of the Internet Explorer. Edge was competing with and loosing to Google’s Chrome browser based on the Chromium open-source project. In fact, Edge was loosing to all the major players like Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox or Opera.

There is a reason why IE and Edge were so unpopular, they both did not show/render content the same way as the Chrome browser does. If 60% of internet users use Chrome, it shows website content in a certain form ( rendering ), small details like spaces, animations, support for modern CSS features were different on IE and Edge or missing altogether. Developers had to use CSS, JavaScript tricks and hacks to make web content look same or at least similar on all browsers.

Microsoft decided lately to use Chromium as it’s rendering engine and build new Edge browser on Chromium. This will have a significant impact on developers all over the world. For a reason like IE and Edge were preinstalled on Windows machines, if you are building a website or an app, you need to make it useful at least on Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox.

Money saver for both Microsoft and tech companies that develop web content

Microsoft has no reason to develop Edge independently, it is a money drain, and no good results were recorded over the past few years. IE and Edge have a combined market share of around 5% compared to Chrome’s 58%. The first thing a Windows user does after buying a Windows-powered device is to install a Chrome or Firefox browser.

So why even bother to have a browser with 5% market share? There are more reasons to have your own browser; branding, pride, preinstalled search engine, the browser itself is the most commonly used application on an average device. Microsoft surely wants Windows users to use Edge and search using Bing. The new integration of Chromium into Edge is a good step forward. If Edge performs well, users might no longer care about what browser they use and don’t mind using Edge after all.

Tech companies also have a reason to celebrate. Developing cross-platform and cross-browser applications is an expensive and exhausting job that includes specific per browser design, different code per browser, testing on all browser. All this will be much easier with Edge on Chromium engine.

Will missing competition impact the browser industry?

Technology experts and bloggers have very different opinions on the topic. Some say the competition was healthy and good, and others say it is not a good idea to have only one significant player around. Edge with 5% market share ( IE including ) was no competition to Chrome. It is good news that Microsoft stepped deep into open source. Microsoft can help Chromium, make it better, improve it to take care of compatibility issues with IE only websites, pour money into the project, inspect the code for better security, make it faster on Windows; you name it, it is just a bigger team with the same goal. Microsoft is bringing the new Chromium-based Edge to macOS devices.

How it affects the end user?

According to Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, there is nothing to do yet, but there will be a ‘preview build’ ready in early 2019. Microsoft is inviting browser developer community to participate, the end users are not affected yet.

Browser Market Share Worldwide from Nov 2017 to Nov 2018 according to StatCounter Global Stats.

  • Chrome 58.15% 58.15%
  • Safari 14.48% 14.48%
  • UC Browser 7.14% 7.14%
  • Firefox 5.36% 5.36%
  • Opera 3.62% 3.62%
  • IE 3.15% 3.15%
  • Samsung Internet 2.79% 2.79%
  • Edge 1.95% 1.95%
  • Android 1.56% 1.56%
  • Other 1.8% 1.8%

Update 7 Feb 2019

Chris Jackson from Microsoft is advising to ditch Internet Explorer as a default browser offering some interesting reasons on his official Microsoft’s blog page.

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