The new Microsoft Edge browser: the third is the charm?

The renewed Microsoft Edge browser, which will be launched today, is the company’s third attempt to build a better browser. The first attempt, Internet Explorer, was initially launched in 1995 and eventually became the most popular browser in the world, reaching a 95% market share in 2003. But Microsoft’s actions to make it difficult for users to use other browsers in Windows They put him on the government’s crosshairs list and led to a successful antitrust lawsuit against the company. After that, Microsoft did little to improve the browser, and Internet Explorer became old, buggy and insecure, allowing agile browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome to gain popularity.

The company’s second browser, Edge, launched in July 2015, was an attempt by Microsoft to replace Internet Explorer and regain the leadership of the browser. Failure. That version of Edge, available only for Windows 10, was slow, packed with features that few people wanted and severely lacked something that people did want: browser extensions. Edge’s failure to turn on only accelerated Chrome’s rival ascent. According to Statcounter, as of December 2019, Chrome had 69% of the global desktop browser market, compared with Edge’s 4.6% and Internet Explorer 3.6%.

Microsoft’s new Edge browser is a break as dramatic as you can imagine from the company’s past. Instead of developing the browser with proprietary code, Microsoft decided to build the new Edge using the open source Chromium source code, which was originally developed by Google and also supports Google Chrome and other browsers such as Opera and Brave. Doing that is anathema to the vision of going alone and dominating the market championed by former CEO Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.


Microsoft’s new Edge browser, based on open source Chromium, is Microsoft’s third attempt to build a better browser. (Click on the image to enlarge it)

The current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, has been willing to break with that orthodoxy of Microsoft in the past. But the use of open source code first developed by Google for Microsoft’s new browser is probably your biggest bet so far. Viewed another way, however, it was not a bet at all. With Microsoft’s browser market share so minimal and its browsers so vilified, he probably felt he had nothing to lose by taking a dramatically new approach.

So how well did Microsoft do with this innovative browser? Will the third time be the charm, or did Microsoft re-build a browser destined to fail? Read on for details and answers.

Note: Unlike the original Edge browser, the Chromium-based Edge works with Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and macOS in addition to Windows 10 but in this review, I focus on the version of Windows 10.

Faster and cleaner

One of the first things you’ll notice about the new Edge is how fast it is and how quickly websites are loaded. Even when I used 10 or more tabs, I didn’t find it slow, as is often the case with Chrome.

In my experience, the new Edge also does not suffer from another Chrome problem: the tendency to slow down as you use the browser, especially when you have several tabs open. It’s not uncommon on my machines, when I leave Chrome running for days with several tabs in use, it becomes so slow that I need to close the browser. In several weeks of testing, that never happened to me with Edge, even when I was using the beta version.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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