Internet Explorer dominated the web browser market over the years, it won and lost browser wars and served millions of users worldwide. However, after 20 years in the business, it seems like its time is over.
Microsoft finally decided to kill off the Internet Explorer and build a completely new browser from scratch. It was code-named Spartan and consequently turned into their newest and coolest web browser – Microsoft Edge. Why Edge? Because it lives “at the edge of modern web standards and capabilities”, this is how Microsoft executives are explaining its name.
We will not review all its new features, possibilities and its ugly logo (which looks like a happy dinosaur, a desk lamp or Sonic the Hedgehog :)). Instead, we will try to find out what it brings to web designers and developers.
So, what should we know about the brand new Microsoft Edge browser:
1. New rendering engine
We all know what a pain is to make your design look nice and code work properly in Internet Explorer. CSS support in Edge is only 6% better than IE11, this is the same rate of progression from IE10 to IE11. However, Microsoft Edge has a new rendering engine which is based on their old Trident engine but with lots of improvement. They basically took Trident and essentially forked it, eliminating almost all its legacy technologies that separated IE from other modern browsers. Consequently, Edge is no longer supporting ActiveX, Browsers Helper Objects, VBScript or third-party toolbars built for IE11, this means an improved performance and a better compatibility. Edge identifies itself as a Webkit based browser, so (theoretically) if you write code for other browsers it will work accordingly in Edge too.
2. Mobile centric
Mobile web browsing is dominated by Chrome, Safari and recently UC browser. Only 2% of mobile browsing occurs from Internet Exporer browser and this is what Microsoft intends to improve.
First of all, Edge will be the only pre-installed browser on Windows mobile devices + it will probably be available for iOS and Android users as well (when? we have no idea). For the 1st time Microsoft has made public its roadmap where you can see what new features will be implemented and what web platform support will be added to Edge. It also offers support for touch events and should be compatible with the most of the responsive design principles.
3. Better collaboration and engagement
Web notes, reading view, hub, Cortana support and other features are intended to provide you a smooth and nice web surfing experience and help you work more efficiently. For example a designer could take notes directly in browser (or using a stylus on his tablet), save and share them with his colleagues.
Also, Edge should be capable of supporting Firefox and Chrome extensions, so enthusiast browser users would be able to use their favorite add-ons and tools. At this time Edge doesn’t support extensions, but they will come before the end of 2015. Microsoft is not worried about this at the moment, as relatively a low number of their users are using extensions. In any case they will cover those users too.
4. Better performance
Because of the new rendering engine and elimination of legacy IE technologies, Edge is probably the lightest and fastest browser from Microsoft. According to latest tests, Edge is 112%, 11% and 37% faster than Chrome in 3 different speed tests. Also, when Edge extensions will arrive, the new Windows 10 will not allow the extensions to “hook into Edge in ways that are not manageable”. This means that if you’ll uninstall a 3rd party extension from Edge browser it will be removed completely, and no malware or hidden code will remain. This will make the browser more secure and faster, as extensions slow the browser down.
The bottom line
Edge is not a revolutionary browser, yet it’s the lightest and fastest browser by Microsoft. Theoretically, it can be considered an improved IE 12, without lots of legacy technologies and behavior. The team at Microsoft finally recognized all their past mistakes and created quite a decent browser with lots of cool features for end users and new possibilities for web designers and developers. We’ll see if it will regain our sympathy and continue the fight in the new browser war.