“Ultimately, we want to make the web-experience better for many different audiences,” explains Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows. “People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices.”
Microsoft Edge isn’t going away, nor is the brand name. If you already use Edge on Windows, then that won’t change. All you’ll ultimately notice is that websites will render more consistently once Microsoft makes this under-the-hood change.
So why is Microsoft changing its rendering engine? Why now? Edge has fallen massively behind Chrome in terms of market share, and it’s getting to the point where Chrome is the new IE6. Developers are optimizing for Chrome, and Google has also been creating Chrome-only web services because it’s often the first to adopt emerging web technologies. Microsoft has struggled to keep its Edge rendering engine in stride with Chromium.
The Verge understands Microsoft has been considering this move for at least a year, and a lot of the push has been from consumers and businesses who wanted the company to improve web compatibility. Edge has been improving on this front, but even small compatibility issues have caused headaches for users along the way. A move to Chromium will immediately solve these web compatibility issues, and it aligns Edge with Chrome and other browsers that also use Blink.
Microsoft has also heard loud and clear from businesses that want the company to support a modern Edge browser across all versions of Windows. Many businesses have machines running Windows 7 and Windows 10, in a mixed environment. As a result, Microsoft is bringing Edge to Windows 7 and Windows 8, decoupling it from being exclusive to Windows 10. Edge will become a downloadable executable across all supported versions of Windows, and it means Microsoft will be able to update it far more frequently than before. It’s not clear if this will be monthly, but it will certainly not be tied to every major Windows 10 update anymore.
Another big part of overhauling Edge involves developers. A lot of web developers use a Mac to develop and test sites, but Edge doesn’t exist there, and it’s currently difficult to test Microsoft’s web rendering engine on a Mac without dual booting Windows. Microsoft is now bringing Edge to the Mac. We understand it’s not a move designed to grab more market share specifically; it’s more about making it easier for developers to test Edge. Microsoft hasn’t committed to a specific date for Edge on the Mac, but we expect to see it later next year.
All of this work means that, ultimately, the browser engine that powers Chrome will get better on Windows. Microsoft is committing to contribute web platform enhancements that will improve both Edge and Chrome on Windows, including things like touch performance, accessibility features, and support for ARM-based versions of Windows. Microsoft has been working closely with Google engineers to help support a native version of Chrome on Windows for ARM, and this will now be available soon as a result of that work.
Microsoft is only just starting to disclose this platform shift to other companies involved in the Chromium project, and the company isn’t ready to start distributing daily builds of Edge running with Chromium just yet. Those beta builds will start early next year, before Microsoft makes the necessary changes in Windows 10 to shift Edge toward Chromium. We expect to see Windows 10 move to this Chromium-based version of Chrome sometime in 2019.
Microsoft now wants to collaborate with Apple, Google, and everyone else who also commits changes to Chromium. “If you’re part of the open-source community developing browsers, we invite you to collaborate with us as we build the future of Microsoft Edge and contribute to the Chromium project,” says Belfiore. “We are excited about the opportunity to be an even-more-active part of this community and bring the best of Microsoft forward to continue to make the web better for everyone.”