I have been saying for a few years now that Chrome is the new IE, and the Google is the new Microsoft (Microsoft being the new IBM). This statement have been somewhat tongue in cheek, but I have always been serious about it not being a joke: history is repeating. I could got at length on all the reasons why I believe this to be true, but I’ll just talk about one new development.

Last week, Microsoft announced that they had decided to abandon EdgeHTML, their web browser engine, and move to be using Google’s Chromium as the heart of the web browser offering, Edge. [1] Whether it will be just Blink and V8 (Web rendering and JS engine respectively) or also parts of Chromium is something unclear.

The takeaway from their statement is:

  • Because web developers seem to only care about Chrome, Microsoft believe in the short term gain of using Chrome for web compatibility since EdgeHTML is lagging behind. They view web compatibility as a single web runtime, not as better and diverse standard implementation:

“1. We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop. Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers. This will deliver improved compatibility for everyone and create a simpler test-matrix for web developers.” [2]

  • They view their own EdgeHTML code base unportable even on their own operating system, too tightly bundled:

“We will evolve the Microsoft Edge app architecture, enabling distribution to all supported versions of Windows including Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as Windows 10. We will also bring Microsoft Edge to other desktop platforms, such as macOS”[3]

  • EdgeHTML being too tightly coupled into Windows, baking it into Windows 10 updates, this is the self inflicted wound that prevent improvement of just that component or even security issues without updating the whole OS:

“If every Edge user were using the very latest version of Edge, it wouldn't be so bad, but that's not the case, and that's because of how Microsoft has bundled Edge with Windows 10. Most home users will end up running the latest feature update to Windows 10 within a few months of its release. But enterprise users are more diverse. … This means that Edge, already a relatively small target for Web developers to think about, suffers major version fragmentation. Contrast this with Chrome, where within a few days of a new version coming out, almost the entire user base is migrated.” [4]

  • This will bring somewhat better parity with Edge on mobile platforms as the Android version of Edge is based on Chromium. (iOS remain the exception, but I’ll leave that for another day)

Microsoft recognized that they failed at reconquering the web.

One thing is clear is that Microsoft will contribute (or try) to Chromium, Blink and V8 to make these better for them. Remember Blink is a fork of WebKit because Google couldn’t work with WebKit major sponsor, Apple, so this may not be a done deal.

The other clear thing is the little marketshare Edge took away from Chrome as an alternative implementation will be aggregated into Chrome’s. Microsoft is actually helping the hegemony of Google, their competitor in several other market, like Bing, Hotmail, Azur, into controlling the web browser space, losing any leverage for web standards.

I wish they had gone the Mozilla route. Not as easy as the one they chose, but still probably way easier as their current situation, and helping Mozilla is helping the web stay relevant as an open standard.

Mozilla’s mission has become even more important than ever and if you wanted to do something useful for the future of the web, just use Firefox, and ensure, if you are a developer, that everything runs smoothly with it.

Ferdy Christant state of the web browser is a relevant read into the whole situation. So is part 2