Microsoft revealed plans in December 2018 to use Chromium as the core for the company's Microsoft Edge web browser instead of the company's own engine.
Chromium is used by Google Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and several other web browsers. Some saw the decision as a long overdue move to improve the default browser on Windows, others as another step towards a Chromium monopoly on the web.
Firefox and Internet Explorer, Microsoft's second web browser that is not really in development anymore, are the two only browsers left standing that use a different engine on Windows after Microsoft completes the move.
A version of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser leaked to the public recently. The download has a size of 112 Megabytes and it is recommended to test it in a sandbox or virtual machine as it comes from an unofficial source.
Note that the browser is still in active development; some things may change and features that are missing may be added before the first stable version release later this year.
The new Edge and the old Edge run side by side. I tested this only on a Windows 10 machine; the new Edge will run on Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 systems as well according to Microsoft. Whether that is the case for this build is unclear.
The browser interface looks very similar to that of other Chromium-based browsers; this should not come as a surprise as all browsers use the same core.
The browser picks up the logged in Microsoft Account of the Windows system and displays the account icon in the interface automatically.
The menu looks like a mix of Chrome's main menu and that of Microsoft Edge. Most options look identical to those offered by Chrome but you find Microsoft's handwriting in some entries. The Read Aloud option is already available and incognito mode is called inPrivate mode.
The Edge main menu is gone in this build which is a good thing in my opinion as I never got used to it. Settings do look different in Microsoft Edge than in Chromium.
A couple of things are still missing in Settings. There is no Themes option
or option to change the search engine, but most Chromium Settings are already available.
Update: you can edit search engines by going to edge://settings/searchEngines.
Microsoft integrated Windows Defender SmartScreen in the browser natively.
The extensions link works already and redirects to the Microsoft Store. There you may install a few dozen extensions optimized for the Microsoft Edge version of Chromium already.
Extensions include AdBlock Plus, Amazon Assistant, Boomerang for Gmail, Dashlane, Enhancer for YouTube, LastPass, Save to Pocket, or uBlock Origin.
Installations work directly; it is no longer necessary to install browser extensions for Edge from within the Microsoft Store app.
Edge displays the extension installation dialog directly in the browser window. The prompt lists permission requests and options to install the extension or cancel the process.
The extensions management page lists options to enable the Developer Mode and to allow extensions from other stores. Microsoft Edge displays a notification to users that this is an option when the Chrome Web Store is visited (but not Mozilla AMO).
You can install extensions from the Chrome Web Store after you make the change on edge://extensions.
The option removes a severe limitation as Edge users could only select from a hundred or so extensions previously. Support for Chrome extensions gives users more options and improved functionality.
The new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser does away with several of the annoyances of the old Edge browser. Better web standards support and support for Chrome extensions are certainly features that make the new Edge more attractive. Whether that is enough to convince users to stick with the browser remains to be seen.
The first impression is good. Microsoft Edge is fast to open, websites load quickly, and you can install extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Some settings and options are still missing but development is ongoing. It is possible that these will be introduced in a future version.
Now You: What's your take on this initial Chromium-based version of Microsoft Edge? (via Caschy)
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