It's a new era for Microsoft. After the early Internet dominated Internet Explorer and Edge's reputation, the company announced today that it would migrate its browser to a Chromium-based platform in 2019.
If you can not beat them, come in
But Microsoft sees the move not only as a case of competition. By integrating Google's Chromium into Edge on the desktop and other major changes announced today, the company aims to improve the browser in ways that were previously unavailable. If you ask me, this is a good thing for everyone.
Compatibility is the main reason for the change. Edge usually works well enough, for sure, but with a fraction of the acceptance of Chromium, developers are not nearly as inclined to make sure their sites work properly with Edge. And once a website does not work properly, users switch to another browser ̵
The company had already contributed to Chromium, including improvements to touch-based scrolling (which used to be terrible) and accessibility and compatibility with ARM devices running Windows. But now it's going to have a much bigger say in the development of Chromium and the Web as a whole.
Switching to Chromium has another advantage: more frequent releases. So far, new editions of Edge have only been released with Windows updates, leading to serious fragmentation. The latest version of Edge could only be installed on the latest version of Windows. Given the reluctance of users to update their operating system, users are vulnerable to compatibility and security updates. The introduction of Edge was also a breeze for IT departments.
Now Microsoft will be able to provide updates as soon as they are introduced with Chromium. This ensures that Edge is compatible with web standards and compatible with all other Chromium-based browsers, chrome extensions down the street. Microsoft also says the move to Chromium will allow them to move the browser to other platforms – get ready for Edge on the Mac.
There is a counter-argument that the switch to Chromium robs the web of scarce diversity and competition. The step removes one of the few remaining chrome alternatives – effectively only Firefox and Safari.
On the other hand, one could argue that the competition was simply moved within Chromium, as Microsoft degrades some of Google's power in the development of Chromium. The difference is that Microsoft's contribution to the platform not only enhances its own browser, but can also enhance Chromium-based browsers everywhere. With a rising tide, all ships are rising, as they say, and you may not be able to install Chrome quickly any more as soon as you get a new computer.
In any case, accepting Chromium will make the Web look as expected. The differences people focus on will be on the UI and features. Microsoft will continue to strive to differentiate itself, for example, through colorization, reading capabilities and tight integration with Windows. The company's browser, in my experience, usually also has an advantage over battery life, though it's not clear whether this will be dampened by the transition to chrome.
After all this, you still have to wait a bit to try out the new chrome-based Edge. Microsoft expects a build for developers to be available by early 2019. Stay tuned.