Microsoft Edge has been around since 2015. However, with the announcement that Microsoft will no longer support Internet Explorer from mid-August 2021, Edge is poised to become the Windows operating system’s de-facto web browser. As the world’s most widely used operating system, web developers cannot ignore Windows. Ignoring its extensive user base will result in a poor experience for users of this ubiquitous platform.
Currently, Google Chrome is the world’s leading browser, with 69% of users utilizing it to access the Internet. Trailing far behind Chrome is Firefox and Edge, with 7.6% and 7.4%, respectively. If we consider that Edge is a relatively new arrival in the browser market, this statistic indicates that its use is growing. Although many Internet pundits still see any Microsoft browser as inferior to Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, recent developments warrant a closer look at the new features that Edge offers.
Microsoft Edge on Chromium
When Microsoft first launched Edge in 2015, user adoption lagged due to the loyal user bases Chrome and Firefox enjoyed. In addition to this new starter disadvantage, Microsoft built its latest browser using a proprietary rendering engine. Web developers applying the 80/20 rule shied away from building applications that supported the browser. Since it did not use a universal or prevalent code base, features across sites and services did not work or render correctly. As Edge had no market share, it was not economically feasible to spend development hours ensuring feature support for a fraction of users.
As the support and popularity of Edge waned, Microsoft went back to the drawing board and rebuilt its new flagship browser. Interestingly it opted to use the Chromium engine instead of an in-house proprietary codebase. On the 15th of January 2020, Microsoft released its latest Edge version running on the same platform as Google’s Chrome and other popular browsers. This monumental shift in Microsoft’s browser strategy aligned it with the universal standards of the modern web. As Edge now runs on Chromium, developers no longer need to factor in nuances that were unique to Edge’s old proprietary rendering engine. Strategically, Microsoft’s move ensures Windows users no longer need to utilize Google Chrome to enjoy the latest web standards. In addition to aligning itself with standard functionality, the new Edge also comes with a set of features that make it a viable contender as a user’s default browser.
Microsoft Edge Features
Collections is an Edge feature that allows you to gather information from various websites. It also gives you the functionality to organize and export it into different file formats, including Microsoft Office applications such as Excel, OneNote, and Word. You can access it by clicking on the settings icon represented by an ellipsis located in the browser’s top right-hand corner. You could also pin the collections icon on Edge’s top bar by selecting this option in the browser settings. It opens a pane where you can drag and drop pages, texts, or images into groups you define. You can also share your collections by sending a link to your colleagues or friends via email or instant messaging.
Another great Microsoft Edge feature is vertical tabs. It allows you to organize your tabs into logical groups while freeing up browser tab real estate. If you are a typical modern web user that often has dozens of tabs open at any time, this functionality allows you to work and browse with greater efficiency. Unfortunately, this feature is currently not available in the general release version of the browser yet. If you want to access vertical tabs and other new features that are in active development, you will need to use Microsoft Edge Canary, which is available here for early adopters and testers.
Another Edge feature currently available to early adopters on Microsoft’s Insider program is a new copy feature. Like the traditional copy function, users can gather content from web pages into documents, email clients, and other apps. However, smart copy takes this functionality one step further and retains the original format. For example, if you copy a table from a particular site and paste it into an app that supports text formatting, it keeps the original table. It also retains any links or images enhancing your productivity as you no longer need to add these items manually.
Improved Tracking Prevention
As the world continues to embrace digital platforms, the user demands for online privacy and tracking prevention has grown exponentially. Microsoft Edge has built-in functionality that allows you to control how websites track your online activities. Depending on the level of privacy you require, you can either set your browser to basic, balanced, or strict mode. Basic mode allows most trackers across all sites, but it does block those known to be harmful. Balanced is the default setting, and as the name implies, it provides privacy while ensuring site functionality. It blocks trackers from sites you have not visited in addition to the harmful ones. The third and final tracking prevention setting is strict. Setting your Edge browser to this security level will block most trackers from all sites. However, it could result in a bad user experience as some sites may not render correctly or work at all.
Other Microsoft Edge Features
In addition to collections, vertical tabs, smart copy, and improved tracking prevention, Microsoft Edge has other features that improve privacy and enhance your overall web browsing experience. These include a built-in password monitor that alerts you if a data breach has compromised one of your passwords. InPrivate mode offers its own sandboxed search feature with Bing, and an immersive reader removes distractions on your screen when you need to focus.
Can Edge beat Chrome?
Although Microsoft’s new re-engineered Edge browser has some valuable features, the lion’s share of the browser market still belongs to Google Chrome. However, Microsoft has a substantial enterprise customer base that they can leverage to erode Google’s dominance. Organizations that have been using Chrome may switch to Edge as it offers better integration into other Microsoft products. In enterprise environments, where a balance between usability and security is crucial, products like Active Directory Group Policy may help Microsoft Edge gain a stronger foothold.
The release of Microsoft Edge for Linux extends the potential user base beyond the traditional corporate domain. Announced at Microsoft’s Build conference and released for preview in October 2020, this move indicates Microsoft’s appetite to invest in building a browser for all platforms. One can, however, not ignore Google Chrome’s share of the browser market. Microsoft Edge may not reach the number one spot, but it is a serious contender. It is fast, user friendly, aligns with modern web standards, and is packed with features that allow you to browse the web with ease.