Microsoft is officially launching its new Edge Chromium browser today on Windows and macOS. A stable version of the browser is now available for everyone to download, just over a year after the software manufacturer revealed its plans to switch to Chromium. Microsoft is initially targeting Edge for Windows and macOS business users, but consumers can also download and install it manually.
In the coming months, Microsoft plans to automatically update Windows 10 users with this new version of Edge that will completely replace the existing integrated browser. The company is taking a slow and careful approach, gradually bringing the new Edge to Windows 10 user groups through Windows Update before it is fully released to everyone in the summer. Microsoft is also releasing this version of Edge to original equipment manufacturers today, so expect to see the machines begin arriving in the period of back to school with the new version of Edge preinstalled. Microsoft will eventually turn this directly into a future update of Windows 10, and will be part of Windows 10X for folding and dual-screen devices. An ARM64 version of Edge will not be available today, but it is expected to reach the stable channel soon.
While Edge Chromium is available today, it’s also being released without some features that you might be familiar with if you’re used to using Chrome. Missing both history synchronization and extension synchronization at startup, but things like favorites, settings, addresses / contact information and passwords will be synchronized. Microsoft plans to have these missing synchronization features available later this year. The good thing is that the rest of Edge is very similar to Chrome and even includes support for Chrome extensions. Where Edge differs is in new features such as Collections, which allows you to collect images and content from the web, and keep track of prevention.
You can choose between three different levels to avoid being crawled on the web in Edge, and the default settings will block crawlers from sites you haven’t visited before. This ensures that content and ads are less personalized and that harmful crawlers are blocked. There is also a strict configuration that blocks most crawlers on the web, but that could mean that some parts of the sites do not load or may not work properly. If you are familiar with Ghostery, the integrated protection of Microsoft Edge is similar.
So why even switch to Microsoft Edge Chromium browser? Microsoft is confident that business users will switch to access features such as Internet Explorer mode, which allows companies to load old IE sites into Edge automatically. Additional anti-tracking features, Collections and support for 4K Netflix with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision will also be important differentiators over Chrome.
There is also the aspect of trust and which browser company you want to trust with your browsing history and privacy. Google is gradually removing third-party cookies and crawlers in Chrome, but not for two years. That gives Edge, Safari, Firefox and others the opportunity to capitalize on web users who are a little more aware of privacy. This alone will not be enough for everyone to get away from Chrome, but Microsoft has a better chance than most with its Windows domain in the company and the fact that Edge is now much more compatible with the web.
Compatibility is key, and it is one of the main reasons why Microsoft chose Chromium in the first place. Chromium offers instant web compatibility, and also allows Microsoft to take its web browser elsewhere. Unusually, Microsoft is launching Edge for Windows 7 today, even though it simply stopped being compatible. The company will not say how long it will be compatible with Edge in Windows 7, but Google has committed at least in mid-2021. Edge is also coming to Windows 8.1 and macOS, and is being updated on both Android and iOS.
Ultimately, the success of Edge Chromium could be due to whether it is fully accepted by web developers and competitors such as Google. During the Edge beta period, we have seen that both Google Meet and Google Stadia are inaccessible in Edge Chromium, despite working on both Chrome and beta versions of Chrome. Hopefully, this new version of Edge will prevent Chrome from becoming the new Internet Explorer 6 and restore healthy browser competition in a Chrome-dominated market. It is good that consumers have two technology giants competing to improve the web, since everyone gets a better web browser as a result.
If you are interested in trying the new Edge, you can download it for Windows or macOS from the Microsoft Edge site.