Microsoft is officially launching its new Edge Chromium browser today across both Windows and macOS. A stable version of the browser is now available for everyone to download, just over a year after the software maker revealed its plans to switch to Chromium. Microsoft is initially targeting Edge at enterprise users of Windows and macOS, but consumers will be able to manually download and install it, too.
In the coming months, Microsoft plans to automatically update Windows 10 users with this new version of Edge which will fully replace the existing built-in browser. The company is taking a slow and careful approach, bringing the new Edge gradually to groups of Windows 10 users through Windows Update before it’s fully rolled out to everyone in the summertime. Microsoft is also releasing this version of Edge to OEMs today, so expect to see machines start arriving in the back-to-school period with the new version of Edge preinstalled. Microsoft will eventually bake this directly into a future Windows 10 update, and it will be part of Windows 10X for foldable and dual-screen devices. An ARM64 version of Edge won’t be available today, but it’s expected to come to the stable channel shortly.
While Edge Chromium is available today, it’s also launching without some features you might be familiar with if you’re used to using Chrome. Both history sync and extension sync are missing at launch, but things like favorites, settings, addresses / contact info, and passwords will all sync. Microsoft is planning to have these missing sync features available later this year. The good thing is the rest of Edge is very similar to Chrome and even includes support for Chrome extensions. Where Edge differs is new features like Collections, which allows you to collate images and content from the web, and tracking prevention.
You can choose from three different levels to avoid being tracked on the web in Edge, and the default setting will block trackers from sites you haven’t visited before. This makes sure content and ads are less personalized and harmful trackers are blocked. There’s also a strict setting that blocks the majority of trackers on the web, but that could mean some parts of sites fail to load or might not work correctly. If you’re familiar with Ghostery, then Microsoft’s built-in protection Edge is similar.
So why even switch to Microsoft’s Edge Chromium browser? Microsoft is banking on enterprise users switching to get access to features like Internet Explorer mode, which lets businesses load legacy IE sites within Edge automatically. The added tracking features, Collections, and support for 4K Netflix with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision will also be important differentiators over Chrome.
There’s also the aspect of trust and which browser company you want to trust with your browsing history and privacy. Google is phasing out third-party cookies and trackers in Chrome but not for two years. That gives Edge, Safari, Firefox, and others an opportunity to capitalize on web users who are a little more privacy-conscious. This alone won’t be enough to get everyone to switch away from Chrome, but Microsoft has a better opportunity than most with its Windows dominance in the enterprise and the fact Edge is now a lot more compatible with the web.
Compatibility is key, and it’s one of the big reasons why Microsoft chose Chromium in the first place. Chromium offers instant web compatibility, and it also allows Microsoft to bring its web browser elsewhere. Unusually, Microsoft is releasing Edge for Windows 7 today, even though it just went out of support. The company won’t say how long it will support Edge on Windows 7 for, but Google has committed to at least mid-2021. Edge is also arriving on Windows 8.1 and macOS, and it’s being updated on both Android and iOS.
Ultimately, the success of Edge Chromium could come down to whether it’s fully embraced by web developers and competitors like Google. During the beta period of Edge, we’ve seen both Google Meet and Google Stadia be inaccessible in Edge Chromium, despite working in both Chrome and beta versions of Chrome. Hopefully, this new version of Edge will prevent Chrome from turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 and restore some healthy browser competition to a market that is dominated by Chrome. It’s a good thing for consumers to have two tech giants competing to improve the web, as everyone gets a better web browser as a result.
If you’re interested in trying out the new Edge, you can download it for Windows or macOS over at Microsoft’s Edge site.