Microsoft has taken the adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," to heart. The company revealed plans to use Chromium, the open source project behind Google Chrome, to rebuild its Edge browser on Windows 10. This is supposed to allow the company to "create better web compatibility for our customers" and lead to "less fragmentation of the web for all web developers." Maybe it will help Edge become a competitive browser.
It's become a cliche to note that people often launch Edge for the first and last time so they can install a different browser. Microsoft, like every other browser maker, has long claimed that its offering is the best-performing and most full-featured on the market. But that hasn't stopped many Windows 10 users from installing Chrome, Firefox, or other alternative browsers so they won't have to use this era's Internet Explorer.
Microsoft has given Edge numerous advantages in the war on retention. The browser is pre-installed with Windows 10, the operating system often recommends that people abandon a third-party browser in favor of Microsoft's offering, and it even toyed with notifications begging Windows Insider Program members to give Edge a chance as they installed a competitor. According to most metrics, though, those efforts have failed.
All of which brings us to Microsoft's announcement that it plans to use Chromium to improve Edge. These plans leaked on Monday, Dec. 4, and were confirmed on Dec. 6. But there were earlier signs that Microsoft planned to play nice with Google's open source project, including reports that the company was helping to bring Chrome to Windows 10 on Arm devices as a native app instead of an emulated version of one.
Microsoft framed its decision to use Chromium as Edge's rendering engine as the latest example of its commitment to supporting open source projects. Yet it's also an admission of defeat--just like the decision to invest more into mobile apps for iOS and Android devices signaled the end of its mobile ambitions. (At least until it finishes work on yet another version of Windows 10 for a dual-screen tablet and smartphone.)
Both decisions benefited consumers. Nobody should have to settle for a sub-par experience simply because they prefer Apple's mobile platform, for example, or haven't installed a third-party browser. Competition is good, but in this case it seems like collaboration should be even better. These might not be the outcomes Microsoft wanted, but they're the ones its customers deserve, and at least it's willing to admit that.
Besides, the decision to implement Chromium does give Edge one clear benefit, which is the fact that it should be easier to bring the browser to macOS and older versions of Windows instead of restricting it to Windows 10. That probably won't amount to much--Edge will have the same amount of competition, plus the addition of Apple's Safari browser on its own platform--but at least those few people who prefer Microsoft's browser will be able to use it elsewhere.