Back in 2016, Microsoft’s Edge browser was pretty new. Most people, if they knew it at all, knew it as “that thing you use to download Chrome when you get a new computer.” The reputation was deserved, I found out. I tried the new browser for a week and my experience was, shall we say, mixed. I found that Edge was better than the previous browser from Microsoft (Internet Explorer) but it had a long way to go to catch up with titans like Chrome and Firefox.
Let’s face it, Edge was a joke.
And that’s a shame, because Microsoft had a real opportunity with Edge. The whole point of the new browser was to start over. Internet Explorer had conquered the world in the 1990s but by 2016, it had become an insecure mess. It only existed on Windows computers because there were some pages that wouldn’t really run on other browsers. Blame Microsoft for that, too. Internet Explorer didn’t adhere to certain web standards. Instead of making it more compliant, they encouraged web designers to design around the problem. And, they did.
With Edge, the goal was a faster, more powerful browser that was better on battery life. One way they did that was stripping out an awful lot of functionality. They took out everything they thought people didn’t use. Then they took out things they thought people did use. What was left… was a very simple browser that you couldn’t do much with.
Even though people had gotten used to plain-jane browsing on their phones, they often wanted more from a desktop browser. And Edge just didn’t deliver.
And then Microsoft did something they almost never do.
Microsoft admitted defeat. Rather than continue development of Edge, they scrapped it and started over. This time, instead of developing everything in-house, they used the Chromium project’s open-source browser as a basis. Chromium is sort of a half-brother to Google’s Chrome browser, and is free to use as long as you credit the original developers.
This meant that the new Edge, released in beta last year and available to all people this year, looks and acts a lot like Chrome. Surprisingly it’s better than Chrome in some ways.
Think about it. That is a major change for Microsoft, a company that either develops everything in-house or flat-out buys technology that they want to use. They’ve pivoted around to using open-source software in several places in Windows 10, but none is as high-profile as the browser.
This change in philosophy really shows how far Microsoft has come since its lowest point almost a decade ago, when many people said the company was dead in the water. After all, back in the early ’10s it was failure after failure for them. Their phones were going unsold (and often unrecognized.) Windows 8, their standard-bearing operating system was getting flogged in the media. Their first attempt at a branded computer was getting horrible reviews. It’s easy to forget how bad those days were for the company.
Should I try Edge for another week?
I’m not sure there’s a reason for me to try Edge exclusively for another week, because here’s the secret: I use it every day already. Since the new Edge came out, I’ve used a two-browser solution on my work PC. I use Chrome for everything work-related, and Edge for everything home-related. This means I can keep things like email and social accounts separate, easily.
The truth is that Edge is so much like Chrome that I rarely notice any difference. Stuff that works on one will work on the other, and occasionally I run into a site that won’t work on either. That’s where I pick up Firefox or some other browser.
There are plenty of people saying you don’t need Chrome anymore. I don’t think that’s quite true, especially if you’re deeply invested in the Google/Android ecosystem. It’s still easier to get those google accounts working on Chrome. It’s just a little smoother. But I certainly wouldn’t discount Edge at this point. It’s surprisingly good.