Microsoft is giving its Edge to Chromium.
On Thursday, Microsoft announced that it will adopt the Chromium open source project for its Microsoft Edge web browser on the desktop, “to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers.” The company also says that it plans to become a “significant contributor” to the Chromium project.
The shift is noteworthy, in large part, because Chromium was first made popular as the underpinning of the Google Chrome browser.
In addition, the company says Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows, not just on Windows 10 where Edge is standard, as well as eventually coming to macOS. That means Edge will be available for both Windows 7 and Windows 8 under Microsoft’s current lifecycle plans.
The company says these “under the hood” changes will take place gradually over the next year, and developed in the open, with a preview build for web developers ready in early 2019. Edge itself was introduced in 2015, but despite being positioned by the company as fast, lightweight and secure, it has seen lackluster success.
“People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices,” said Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows, in a blog post. “Web developers will have a less-fragmented web platform to test their sites against, ensuring that there are fewer problems and increased satisfaction for users of their sites.”
Belfiore also suggested that the change represents less of a revolution and more of an evolution for Edge. He noted that the company has used open source for various features of its Windows 10 desktop browser before — such as Angle, Web Audio, and Brotli — “and we’ve begun making contributions to the Chromium project to help move browsing forward on new ARM-based Windows devices.”
Earlier this week, there were reports from anonymous sources that Edge would be rebuilt from the inside out, with the EdgeHTML rendering engine replaced by Blink, the one in Chromium. At the time, it was not known if the Microsoft Edge brand would be maintained — but today’s announcement from Microsoft seems to set that particular speculation to rest.