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Mozilla is deeply concerned about Microsoft killing EdgeHTML

08 December 2018

Mozilla, the non-profit behind the Firefox browser, is deeply anxious about Microsoft's recent move, and the inevitable prospect of handing more of the Internet to Google.

For end users, it means a consistent experience, the option to choose Edge on other operating systems like Linux and Mac, and even the arrival of UWP browsers from Chrome and Opera - something that is now barred.

Microsoft didn't frame the change as a defeat in the upbeat blog post, but it's hard to see it as anything else. The company says this will enable it to bring Edge to other versions of Windows, like 7 and 8.1, and other platforms like macOS in the near-future. The interests of Microsoft's shareholders may well be served by giving up on the freedom and choice that the internet once offered us.

This new version will be slowly developed over the next year and will be available for users to test via preview builds from their new Microsoft Edge Insider program. The central assertion is that Microsoft Edge will adopt the Chromium open source project "create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers", wrote Belfiore.

Whether or not Microsoft's switch to Chromium helps boost Edge's paltry marketshare, it comes at a time when Firefox use is dwindling.

Compared to the endlessly mocked Internet Explorer, Edge is a totally serviceable, relatively sleek piece of software, but the fact is that web developers simply weren't going to go out of their way to ensure that their websites would run flawlessly on the platform when almost 70% of the planet uses Chrome.

Previously, Edge had its own proprietary browser engine, EdgeHTML, which was praised for its performance in some areas, but also brought frustration to web developers due to compatibility issues. Once Edge shifts to a Chromium foundation, the company intends to deliver browser updates for all Windows versions "on a more frequent cadence".

I never understood why Edge was not available for other supported Windows versions; it felt like a huge oversight on Microsoft's part.

By switching to Chromium, Microsoft is finally ditching the existing EdgeHTML browser engine. The moving to a Chromium-base changes that and that is a good thing. Currently, Edge updates are tied with Windows 10 updates, which means it only gets a handful of updates throughout the year but once it's decoupled from the OS, it can be updated as often as required across all platforms. In the near term, the company said it intends to finish porting the Chromium codebase to support ARM-64, to improve accessibility in Chromium via Microsoft assistive technology, to add support for modern input mechanisms like touch controls, and to contribute to ongoing security hardening. "We expect our engineers to learn and over time become experts in the Chromium project". The Microsoft Careers portal now shows 23 listings associated with "Edge jobs".

Mozilla is deeply concerned about Microsoft killing EdgeHTML