Rumors sparked in December 2018 that Microsoft was ditching EdgeHTML, used to create its Edge browser. In its place, Microsoft is doing the unthinkable: Switching to Google’s open-source Chromium to build an entirely new browser that would have more in common with Google’s Chrome than anything Microsoft has done before.
It seemed incredible, but Microsoft quickly confirmed the report. The Edge browser (which always struggled with popularity) is going to be replaced, and Windows 10 fans have a brand new browser to look forward to. But what does this new browser look like, and when can you expect it? Here’s what we know so far.
Since Chromium is open source, and Microsoft isn’t in the habit of charging for a browser download anyway, it’s safe to say that there’s no cost associated with this project. You’ll be able to get it for free.
However, when exactly Microsoft will be offering the download remains unclear. The browser is expected to launch in the first half of 2019. However, Kyle Alden, the Edge project manager, has said that they, “Can’t commit to a specific timing just yet.” That indicates there’s still some work to be done on the project and a possibility that you’ll have to wait beyond June 2019 for a full release. We hope to hear more about it at the recently announced Build conference, Microsoft’s annual developers conference.
As for the user interface, recently leaked images from an internal build of the browser showed that it heavily resembles Google Chrome. It features a favorite button on the right side of the address bar, an area for the user’s profile picture, and hub for installed extensions. It also integrates with Bing, showing a daily background image in newly opened tabs. Most popular visited websites and a personalized news feed will also appear on the new tab page, just as present in Microsoft Edge.
Code name Anaheim
Will Microsoft keep the Edge name for its new browser? We aren’t sure yet. According to the very first reports on the project from Windows Central, the Chromium browser project was developed under the code name “Anaheim,” but no one expects that to be the ultimate name of the project.
Our best guess is that the Edge name, a brand Microsoft invested in heavily after Internet Explorer, will remain, at least in some fashion. Whether the Chromium browser will have an additional name to differentiate it is still unknown.
Chrome extensions and Edge features in Chromium?
When the announcement for the new Edge browser was made, many people had a similar question: “If the new browser is going to be built with Chromium, does that mean I can use Chrome extensions with it?” Those who have spent any time with the Chrome browser are likely to have at least a few extensions to customize their internet experience or add specific tools they use on a daily basis.
Kyle Alden also confirmed that the new browser was created with the intention to support “existing Chrome extensions.” If this works out as planned (with the caveat that extension support may be more limited), it will be much easier for Chrome users to consider making the switch to the new browser — or at least trying it out, knowing their favorite additions can also make the trip.
In mid-March, Microsoft published (and then seemingly pulled) a page of Edge Insider Addons, showcasing as many as 82 of what are presumed to be Chrome-compatible extensions. Spotted by regular Windows leaker, WalkingCat, via TechDows, the list of Addons included Amazon Assistant, AdBlock, Adblock Plus, Lastpass, and Qihoo 360 Internet Projection. As ZDNet highlighted, this is a greater list of Addons that the stable release version of Edge currently supports, suggesting that the new Chromium version of Microsoft’s browser will enjoy greater extension/add0n support than its predecessor.
This does raise the question of what will happen to all the older Edge apps dependent on EdgeHTML. Well, we aren’t sure if they will be able to work on the Chromium browser, but they shouldn’t suddenly stop working. Microsoft has assured people that any apps that need EdgeHTML will continue to function. Developers will also be able to choose which rendering engine they want when developing future apps.
Will Microsoft open source and bring some of these over to its new Chromium-based browser as well? According to early code commits spotted online, that is very much a reality. Microsoft is already pushing Google to add support for the custom Windows 10 system stylings for video captions in Chromium. Noted in a separate code commit, Microsoft also wants to add support for dragging and dropping Outlook emails and attachments in the upcoming Chromium-based web browser — just as the feature currently functions in Edge.
You will be able to download the browser easily, maybe
Microsoft has a habit of releasing new software early on to its Windows Insiders, which is one reason many consumers sign up for the service. Not so with this new Chromium browser. You don’t need Windows Insider to access the browser: Instead, it will be available as a separate download for all who want it. This should help encourage broader adoption — although that makes it all the more important to have a stable release.
However, you might need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows 10 in order to initially download and test out the beta versions of the browser. That’s according to recent troubleshooting documentation leaked online. It all means that if you’re on Windows 7, Windows 8,1, macOS, or with a 32-bit version of Windows, you will need to wait to download the final version.
Like Edge, we still imagine it will ship as the default browser in all Windows 10 machines once it’s fully tested and rolled out. But for now, you can sign up to test it by visiting this webpage.
Oh, and Mozilla isn’t happy
If you were wondering what Mozilla, creator of Firefox, thinks about all the browser reshuffling — well, it isn’t pleased. Of course, another browser competitor probably isn’t good news for it — especially not another one that uses Chromium. However, Mozilla’s blog post is mostly criticizing Microsoft for “giving up” on Edge.
The company is worried this puts entirely too much of the internet in Google’s hands, rather than coming up with viable alternatives. It’s an interesting take, but the full effects of the new browser are still largely unknown. Using open-source Google tools doesn’t exactly mean Google has control over the project. Google itself has been silent about this development.
Updated on March 14, 2019: Added new details on published Addons.
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