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Microsoft Edge 79 to Use the Chromium Browser Engine

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With the release of Edge 79, Microsoft will transition from its proprietary EdgeHTML engine to Chromium, the popular open-source engine that powers Chrome.

The move aims to increase compatibility between Microsoft Edge and Chromium-based browsers that dominate the market. As a result, developers will no longer need to perform additional tests nor add specific code to fully support the Edge browser, which in turn should increase the adoption rate of the browser.

Microsoft Edge browser comparison

The above screenshot is a side-by-side comparison of the microsoft.com website rendering via the current version of Edge version (left) and the upcoming release of Edge 79 with the Chromium engine (using the beta release branch).

The difference in UI is relatively minor and focuses around the tabs area; it's a little slimmer and includes several additional buttons that help manage the tabs, while the content itself seems identical. On the other hand, websites like webassign.net that previously did not support Microsoft Edge and reported various display problems that prevented users from fully using the website should now work as intended.

The decision to adopt the open-source Chromium engine may represent a bigger shift within Microsoft, which has so far mostly used proprietary solutions like their EdgeHTML engine. In regard to this, during the initial announcement of the move in December 2018, the shift to an open source philosophy was mentioned as one of the main reasons Microsoft has decided to make this move.

It should be mentioned that while many view the adaptation of the open-source Chromium engine as a step in the right direction for Microsoft, it does come with a hidden cost as it will decrease the diversity in the browser market.

Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla, expressed his concern in an open letter stating that "If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium."

This was the case when FireFox was initially released back in 2002. At the time, Microsoft Internet Explorer dominated the market and incorporated many non-standard functions within the browser. As a result, users who tried to switch to Firefox often found out that many of their favorite websites no longer worked. At the same time, developers were reluctant to accommodate the new browser requirements, as it significantly increased their development costs.

Microsoft Edge 79's release candidate was announced in November during the Microsoft Ignite 2019 event and can be downloaded through the Microsoft Edge Insider Channels. Users who wish to start using Edge 79 can select between three release options -- Beta, Developer, and Canary -- which represent different release cycles (six weeks, weekly and daily), with the Beta release being the most stable and the Canary release including the most up-to-date changes.

The official release of Edge is planned for the 15th of January.

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