Microsoft is ready for more people to test its shiny new browser. Today, the company invited members of the Windows Insider Program to install the upcoming version of Edge built with Chromium, the open source project at the heart of Google Chrome, so it can get feedback ahead of its official launch.
This reimagination of Edge has been approaching release for the last few months. Microsoft announced that it was working on this project in December 2018. Then, it allowed people to sign up for the Microsoft Edge Insider program before introducing add-ons for the preview version of the browser on March 15. Now, it’s asking the broader Windows Insider Program community to weigh in on its work.
“You might have heard that some changes are coming for Microsoft Edge,” the company said today in an email, “and today we’re excited to announce that the first preview builds of the next version of Microsoft Edge based on Chromium are now ready for download on Windows 10 PCs.” This build won’t replace the version of Edge currently installed, and Microsoft said it will continue to ship the non-Chromium version of Edge in upcoming Windows 10 preview builds for the time being.
Edge currently relies on its own rendering engine. But the browser hasn’t really caught on, and Microsoft seems to think that’s because many sites are made with Chrome (and therefore Chromium) in mind. Switching to Chromium allows Edge to offer the same basic experience as its rival, which could, in turn, help the browser find a new audience. Or at least that’s what Microsoft seems to hope.
But adopting Chromium won’t be all it takes to convince people to ditch their current browser in favor of Edge. Some will use extensions they can’t find on Microsoft’s platform, some will prefer another browser’s design and some probably just can’t be bothered changing until they absolutely have to. Chromium could improve Edge for people content to use whatever browser comes with their operating system, but everyone else... eh.
Yet, the switch could have wider ramifications for the web than some expect. Chromium is open source, sure, but it’s very much Google’s project. Giving the company even more control over how people use the web—even indirectly—could further undermine the principle of openness on which the web currently relies. Case in point: the company’s plan to kill ad-blockers in Chromium, which totally, definitely, 100 percent had nothing to do with Google making money off ads, right?
We’ll find out what Edge’s switch to Chromium means when the new version of the browser officially debuts. Until then, Windows Insider Program members can see what that version of Edge will look like by heading to the Microsoft Edge Insider website. You can download the browser there.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.