Microsoft Edge is Going Chromium, and Mozilla is Not Happy

In an edgy blog post (pun intended), Mozilla CEO Chris Beard says Microsoft giving up on its own rendering engine for the Edge browser is a big mistake.

Writing that “Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet,” Beard admits his dramatic tone is purposeful. “By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google.”

Over the next year or so, Microsoft will transition to Chromium for its Edge browser, or at least make Edge “Chromium-compatible.” It will make the under-the-hood change for all existing versions of Edge, and is planning a macOS version of Edge.

In a blog post, Microsoft’s Vice President for Windows Joe Belfiore writes: “Ultimately, we want to make the web-experience better for many different audiences. People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices.”

A Google spokesperson piped up: “Chrome has been a champion of the open web since inception and we welcome Microsoft to the community of Chromium contributors. We look forward to working with Microsoft and the web standards community to advance the open web, support user choice and deliver great browsing experiences.”

Opera told VentureBeat: “We noticed that Microsoft seems very much to be following in Opera’s footsteps. Switching to Chromium is part of a strategy Opera successfully adopted in 2012.” Apple, which has its proprietary Safari browser, doesn’t seem to have anything to add to the conversation.

And Mozilla’s take? It’s a touch dramatic:

From a business point of view Microsoft’s decision may well make sense. Google is so close to almost complete control of the infrastructure of our online lives that it may not be profitable to continue to fight this. The interests of Microsoft’s shareholders may well be served by giving up on the freedom and choice that the internet once offered us. Google is a fierce competitor with highly talented employees and a monopolistic hold on unique assets. Google’s dominance across search, advertising, smartphones, and data capture creates a vastly tilted playing field that works against the rest of us.

Open source may prove the real battleground heading into 2019 and beyond. Microsoft plans on continuing its open source contributions via Chromium (”we will contribute web platform enhancements to make Chromium-based browsers better on Windows devices”), and Google seems to welcome that advance. But Beard questions if this move makes Google too powerful, likening it to the days when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer enjoyed a huge market share and ran roughshod over Netscape Navigator and others. If Google has more control via Chromium’s new title as the de facto web standard for developers, it could be bad news.

As The Verge points out, Microsoft’s current policies restrict Windows Store apps to its existing rendering engine; policies that will hopefully change once the move to Chromium is complete. Of course, Microsoft could simply create a peering agreement to run the Chrome Store on Edge for extensions (the “apps” section is dead). We’re also unsure if “Chromium-compatible” means the Chrome Web Store could run on Edge at all.

For web developers, things just got a lot simpler. With Chrome and Edge in lockstep, developers should have an easier time targeting a variety of browsers. “Web developers will have a less-fragmented web platform to test their sites against, ensuring that there are fewer problems and increased satisfaction for users of their sites,” Belfiore writes.