Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser is now available for developer testing, just 16 weeks after the company confirmed plans to rebuild its Edge browser (which replaced Internet Explorer) on Chromium, the open source backbone of Google’s Chrome, in a bid to boost performance and market share.
Microsoft said its team has made some “modest but meaningful” contributions to Chromium’s code base already: “Our early contributions include landing over 275 commits into the Chromium project since we joined this community in December. We also have started to make progress on some initial areas of focus“.
Developers can, starting today, download and try the new tool at the Microsoft Edge Insider site. The company is launching three channels for the project: a “Canary” channel (updated daily); a “Developer” channel (updated weekly) and a “Beta” channel, updated monthly. The Canary and Developer channels are now live.
The decision to switch from its own engine to Chromium was met with some dismay by Mozilla, whose Firefox is the internet’s third most widely used browser.
As the company’s Chris Beard put it on December 6: “If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium. That’s what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000s before Firefox was released. And it could happen again.”
Chromium Edge: “Simplify the Matrix”
A “unity” of experience was one of the key reasons for the change cited by Microsoft in a lengthy post about the move late last year: “The complexity and overhead involved in testing web sites has exploded. Since web developers—particularly those at small companies– need to test so many different systems, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that interesting sites will work well across all device types and all browsers.”
“We hope to simplify this matrix for web developers by aligning Microsoft Edge web-platform with other Chromium-browsers and to provide meaningful, aligned capabilities on Windows that can be used by any browser.”
With Microsoft promising to swing its own substantial resources behind improving Chromium, the company can bake Chromium into Windows, potentially dramatically improving Chromium’s resource-sapping performance.
Strong ARM Maneuvres
The company said today: “We’ve been collaborating with Google engineers to enable Chromium to run natively on Windows on ARM devices starting with Chromium 73. With these contributions, Chromium-based browsers will soon be able to ship native implementations for ARM-based Windows 10 PCs, significantly improving their performance and battery life.
Google engine or no, Microsoft is intent on its own service integrations: these will include Windows Hello (biometric logins) support in the Web Authentication API in Chromium; Bing Search powering the search and address bar suggestions by default; the ability to use Microsoft Account service and Azure Active Directory to sign-in to the browser to help manage personal and work accounts and a “Microsoft Activity Feed Service” that synchronises browser data across your devices; as Firefox Sync has long done…
The company is also emphasising wider access to media, with Edge now able to play media on sites that previously only used the Google Widevine DRM system. The dev channel can be accessed here.