An early build of Microsoft’s upcoming Chromium-based Edge browser has recently leaked online. This browser, which despite carrying the same name as it’s predecessor, will be built from a completely different foundation, and therefore, provide a completely refreshed experience for those who are already familiar with the current manifestation of Microsoft Edge. This new browser is built on Chromium, powered by the Blink browser engine, whereas the old browser was powered by EdgeHTML. The new Edge browser built on Chromium will eventually replace the old Edge browser in Windows 10. EdgeHTML, however, will continue to be a part of Windows as it’s a critical and heavily integrated component in many of Windows 10’s features.
Running the new Edge browser for the first time, you’ll be greeted with a prompt asking you to import data from your previous browser, something that will certainly help smooth the transition for converts from other browsers. Right away, the UI looks like a blend between Google Chrome’s layout and subtleties, masked with the fonts and iconography of Microsoft’s Fluent Design language.
The new tab page looks a lot like Microsoft Edge on Android, with the Microsoft logo promoted at the top. The list of frequent sites is designed just like the frequent apps in the search UI from the latest Windows Insider builds. You can customize the layout of the new tab page from a hamburger menu in the corner. You can set the daily Bing wallpaper as the background, or bring back the informational page like in the current version of Edge.
Rounded corners and drop shadows are everywhere to be seen, which in my opinion make this new browser look even nicer than the current version of Google Chrome. It doesn’t quite feel as native as the old Edge browser, largely due to the lack of acrylic, highlight, reveal, and connected animations.
Those who are most familiar with Google Chrome will probably feel more at home with this new browser than people who’ve become accustomed to Microsoft Edge. For the mass majority of people, this will probably be a good thing. I expect that some of Microsoft Edge’s unique features will eventually make their way to the new browser.
Because this version of Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome are based on Chromium, they both perform more or less identically. Websites load quickly, and Google sites, such as YouTube perform exactly as you would expect on Chrome.
Page scrolling also performs exactly as it does on Google Chrome- not particularly well. It’s not terrible, but scrolling webpages with a precision trackpad or touch screen feel nowhere near as reactive and smooth as it does in the old Edge browser. It just doesn’t feel native. If there’s anything I hope Microsoft can bring over from the old Edge, it’s the smooth scrolling. Ultimately, however, the mass improvement in overall page performance probably outweighs the simple things like this.
Anyone who’s been following the Windows Insider program for the last couple years knows the amount of work Microsoft has put into the PDF and eBook experience in Microsoft Edge. It’s so good, I even coined Microsoft Edge the best document reader for your PC in my Windows 10 October 2018 Update video. The feature set is so thorough, the UI so organized, and the reading experience an absolute breeze. The new Edge Browser on the other hand… it’s not so great.
It would really be a shame if all the work put into Document reading in the old Edge browser went to waste. Opening and navigating large PDF files in the new Edge is difficult, and all the unique reading and markup tools are gone. ePUB files aren’t even supported, but I’m sure Microsoft already has plans for re-implementing these features. The Microsoft Store has an entire section dedicated to eBooks, so I’m not worrying yet. This is nowhere near a final product.
Websites as apps
Indicative of Microsoft’s push for the adoption of PWA’s, the new Microsoft Edge allows you to ‘Install’ PWA’s onto your device. On any website, you can open the Edge Menu, select ‘Apps’ from the list, and “Install” that app onto your device. Doing so will pop the site out into its own Window, and add a shortcut to your all apps list on the Start Menu. Now, the website can be used just like any other app on your PC. Interestingly, Edge allows you to do this with literally any website, whether or not the site is a PWA. Right now, it doesn’t seem like any websites will work offline even if ‘Installed’ through Microsoft Edge. Presumably, in the future, some web-apps may be able to work offline through this feature.
Microsoft Edge Insider
The new Microsoft Edge will presumably become available to Windows Insiders in the near future. The Microsoft Edge Insider sign-up page is and already has been open to all users for some time now. When the time comes, pre-release builds of the new Microsoft Edge, as well as an official statement on its progress will become available for everyone.Further reading: Chromium, Edge Insider, Microsoft Edge, Project Anaheim, Windows 10