WHY COULD MICROSOFT’S NEW EDGE EVENTUALLY WIN THE BROWSER WARS


I recently realized that I had broken a habit that had been around for a decade: I wasn’t using Microsoft’s Edge browser to download Google Chrome when setting up my new computer. I downloaded the new Edge instead.

I don’t expect many others to take the new Edge manually. But over time, as the browser becomes a pre-installed feature on new and existing Windows 10 computers (a process that began in January), if they try a new Edge, it is possible that they will never return to Chrome.

I know this is a bold statement, especially considering that Edge is an outrageous 5% market share . However, after using it intensively, and as my earlier review of the new Edge suggests, there are two reasons why someone might deliberately choose to use the new Edge instead: convenience and compatibility.

Mark Hachman / IDG
Microsoft seems to have cut the browser a bit between the beta and the final release, including the elimination of the “feedback” button that lived in the upper right corner.

ADVANTAGES EDGE: COMPATIBILITY, PRACTICALITY
Microsoft has built a “new” Edge, distinguished by a swirling blue logo, on Chromium, not EdgeHTML. The new Edge retains all the functionality that Chromium brings with it, including compatibility with the Chrome Web Store as well as Microsoft curated applications. Like any other browser, you will currently need to download, install and ask it to share your favorite addresses, passwords and other data from another browser – probably Chrome.

Microsoft
The pivot logo of the new Microsoft Edge will eventually replace the stylized “e” older versions.

Once that process is complete, the new Edge feels like Chrome: clean and fast, though still quite heavy on CPU resources, as our review showed.

This is where the Edge stands out on its own: fast and fast, but compatible with the familiar Chrome experience. The extensions work as expected. Chromium functions such as casting on an external device are present.

Practice still needs to be done: For example, there is no obvious way to set media controls for a particular location, while this was one of the key features promoted by rival browsers. Chrome still boasts benefits, including its ability to serve as a password generator and vault.

But here’s another feature that separates the new Edge from Chrome: Not only does it work, but when it’s preinstalled in Windows 10, it will work immediately.

With the new Edge, Microsoft synchronizes your data with your Microsoft account. After logging into your computer and assuming you have previously configured a new Edge, every new Edge computer browser will be up and running.

If I download Opera or Firefok or even Chrome, I have to manually login with a password and enter two-factor authentication. Only then will my favorites and passwords and extensions sync automatically. With the new Edge, this process will be completed before you have time to type “download Google Chrome” into the search bar.

Mark Hachman / IDG
Mozilla Firefox knows if you’ve reinstalled the browser on your PC and will sync any data it previously saved. But if you want to sync to another computer, you have to sign in again.

Both versions of the Edge actually benefited from not having to sign up. But old Edge needed to be in sync properly forever. Edge’s unfamiliarity probably didn’t help either, but his poor sync led enthusiasts to browsers they could work on right away. The edge icon is simply ignored.

DON’T BE SURPRISED TO SEE EDGE “ADS”
The first moment a user opens Microsoft’s new Edge will be absolutely critical. If Microsoft can convince them to sync their data with their existing browser, then every new computer they own for the rest of their lives will contain that data. At that point, Microsoft can hope that the fresh, clean look of the new Edge will sell itself. Additionally, if Edge is built into Chrome and set up without any user interaction, then why download Chrome?

Microsoft already has this unpleasant habit of “reminding” you of Bing when you search for Google in its browser. “Ads” and reminders and tips appear in various subsections of the Windows operating system. I would expect something similar for the new Edge, especially in the early moments when new users will open a new Edge to take Chrome out of the habit. It will be that split second where Microsoft will have to convince you to try the new Edge. Once they do that, regardless of curiosity or great laziness, the tide begins to turn in Microsoft’s favor.

Mark Hachman / IDG
Expect to see more of the same passive-aggressive promotional behavior as Microsoft introduced the new Edge.

No guarantees yet. But maybe in a few years we will start thinking about Microsoft Edge the same way we start thinking about Windows Defender: If that’s good enough, why bother downloading anything else?

There is still one big risk, and Microsoft is doing it itself: Your browser history, open tabs, collections, and extensions are still out of sync within the new edge. If this continues, users will sigh, shrug and download the browser they have always used.

Microsoft’s ability to connect a fast, handy Chromium-compatible browser in the Windows operating system gives Microsoft the best opportunity to win browser wars in years. I doubt other browser makers will go quietly into the night, and there’s no way Edge will soon crash Chrome’s market share. But the day Google sues Microsoft for “connecting” the browser, you’ll know that Edge has arrived.

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