Last week, some users of the new Chromium-based Edge Insider browser noticed that Google Meet had stopped working with either Edge Dev or Canary builds. Windows Central did a bit of digging and found that the core of the problem was the user-agent string, a line of code used to identify browser particulars to websites. By changing the user agent string, Google Meet suddenly worked again.
Now, some new shenanagins have surfaced, as users of Google Docs are reporting a warning that Edge Dev is “an unsupported browser.”
The same scenario exists with this latest effort from Google, changing the user agent string removes the warning. After the Google Meet incident, Google issued a statement, deflecting any blame:
“We view the increased adoption of Chromium and WebRTC as positive for the entire Unified Communications industry. With the recent release of developer previews for Edge, we are thrilled to be able to offer a new preview experience of Hangouts Meet, and we plan to officially support it once it becomes generally available”
The word at the time was that Microsoft had changed user agent strings to one that wasn’t on Google Meet’s “allow list.” However, the problem existed on both Edge Dev and Canary, and showed up between Edge Dev builds, making the assertion that Edge Dev suddenly changed user agent strings in the middle of the week with no build update a bit problematic.
The same thing holds for this latest Google Docs issue. We’re not Google Docs users, but many are, and no one has reported this issue until now, making it much more likely that it was Google that had changed the way it handled Edge Dev user agent strings than anything that Microsoft did.
Regardless of whatever glowing PR-speak statements Google makes, they have a reputation for sabotaging competing browsers. Microsoft’s plan is to release Chromium-Edge with Microsoft services replacing Google ones, and that can’t sit well with Google, who coincidentally are suffering a rather bad morning in the stock markets after releasing their earnings yesterday. If Edge were to be able to stave off a mass migration to Chrome, Google would stand to lose lots and lots of user data and inroads into services like Google Docs. As much as they’re “thrilled” to welcome Edge to Chromium, they can’t be happy about the positive press Edge Insider is getting.
(quick update, one notable tech pundit seems to agree:)
This is entirely predictable and almost certainly just the start. https://t.co/3CxJi2atBD
— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) April 30, 2019
We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but expect more shenanagins from Google as Edge fights back in the browser wars.