Microsoft has gotten the short end these past 10-odd years when it comes to web browsers. Most of the time, Internet Explorer was the butt of jokes. When it was not, people used it only as a way to download other, more popular browsers. But if recent developments are anything to go by, the Silicon Valley-based company hasn’t given up on their system-native browser yet.
At the end of 2018, Microsoft announced a new version for Microsoft Edge based on Chromium. The beta version is already available, and Microsoft promised to release the full version this month. So here’s a quick look at what you can expect from Edge Chromium.
Edge Chromium comes with standard browser options. But there are also a few nifty new features included.
Chrome used to let users mute individual tabs, but they’ve since switched to muting sites instead. Edge, meanwhile, brings back this useful feature. Though, you can still quiet websites by enabling a sound flag setting.
Text-to-speech is a brilliant accessibility feature that comes built right into Edge Chromium. It means websites can now be read aloud to the user. Thanks to Microsoft’s cloud-powered voices, powered by Microsoft Cognitive Services, it offers the most natural-sounding neural voices in existence.
Edge Chromium users can save websites and web apps onto the desktop or into a folder for later use. They can access them at any time without having to open up the browser. For instance, instead of downloading a Facebook app, save the website as an app and open it up anytime.
All the standard features everyone’s come to love are there. From history and password syncing across devices to importing bookmarks. The UI also more resembles other Chromium-based browsers (like Chrome). So it’s easy to know where things are right from the start.
The dark mode is a recently added feature for Edge. The upcoming Edge Chromium will have it included out of the box. The only caveat is that it doesn’t overwrite the color schemes of any webpages. So those will still be bright regardless.
Edge didn’t have Chromecast support up until now. But thanks to Chromium, casting content to the browser couldn’t be more straightforward.
Developers can already start submitting Microsoft Edge extensions on the addons store. But all current Chromium extensions will be available on the new Chromium browser too. For example, if you were using a Microsoft Edge password manager (like this one), you will be able to continue doing so. But if you want to try extensions that Edge hasn’t had yet, you’ll have the whole Chromium gallery to choose from.
Chromium has its fair share of threats and risks. But by adopting this open-source platform, Microsoft can help make it better. It also means that Microsoft doesn’t have to deal with Edge-specific security issues alone anymore. Now, they can rely on a much bigger community to help find and patch vulnerabilities instead.
Previous iterations aside, the new Edge browser is shaping up to be a solid contender to other popular options out there. Being built on Chromium not only gives it access to neat features, but it makes the browser safer in some ways too. Microsoft is also working with Google to ensure a smooth transition to the rendering engine. So Firefox may soon be the last non-Chromium-based mainstream browser out there.
But what sets Edge apart from its Chromium counterparts? For starters, it’s quicker and lighter. Edge Chromium doesn’t eat up nearly as much RAM as Chrome, and, surprisingly, even less than Firefox.
Another comparison where Edge comes out on top is in the security department. Most Chromium-based browsers use Google’s Safe Browsing feature for security. Edge, meanwhile, integrates with Microsoft’s Windows Defender SmartScreen.
Edge might have lacked behind popular browsers like Firefox and Chrome, but these new changes should nix that. Edge Chromium boasts some handy features and impressive performance. Even when compared to other mainstream options.