Microsoft revamped its Edge browser since its release alongside Windows 10 back in 2015. The browser was still years behind Chrome and Firefox in terms of extensions, performance and browser features and has always been in the infamous shadow of what was Internet Explorer. This time around, Microsoft’s new Edge browser is built on the open-sourced browser project Chromium and that is a very good thing.
If you’re unfamiliar, Chromium is a project to bring web developers open-source code to build a faster, safer, and more stable web experience. I found a similar user experience to using Edge as I did Chrome, as it should be because both are built off Chromium. Edge has a similar layout and settings menu to Chrome. Pages load quickly and web surfing is smooth and fast like Chrome. Even when I was setting up Edge, I could import all my saved data and passwords from Chrome. At this point, you may be asking yourself, “why don’t I just use Chrome?” Simply put, Microsoft has implemented features into its Edge browser with a different focus than Chrome. Privacy and productivity are Edge’s focus.
The new Edge has superior privacy and security features list than other browsers. From the startup, I was able to choose between 3 different tracking levels for my privacy and security. I have control over what data is being collected from me and what trackers I want to block from my browsing experience. Some websites use this data for a more personalized ad experience, but many times that data is sold to other websites. This level of privacy is not something we would see on Google’s Chrome browsers. I commend and respect Microsoft for bringing this feature to a Chromium web browser because many times, users don’t even know that tracking prevention is a thing. Unless it is brought up and out into the light, websites will continue to track and collect user data.
Microsoft did not stop at its Edge browser for security, either. A part of its InPrivate feature, which is like Chrome’s incognito mode, is for Bing to delete its user information just as the browser does. It is good to see Bing, as Microsoft’s search engine, being upgraded and implemented into the Edge’s ecosystem as well. It is one thing to have a capable sea vessel, but it is nothing without its navigation of the sea. Edge’s primary search engine should focus on the same criteria; a user’s privacy, productivity, and personal experience.
I mentioned before that Edge has stepped up its extensions and even more so for its mobile version. AdBlock, an extension on the desktop that blocks ads, is integrated into the mobile version of Edge and can be enabled just by setting one toggle in the settings. I love this integration and this next level of ad prevention for mobile devices.
Productivity with the user in mind
Microsoft has always been good about keeping me productive in its ecosystem. It nailed it with its Edge browser. I found many implemented features that kept me focused and productive on the task at hand.
Edge’s immersive reader mode takes all the distracting side panels/menus and all the ads out of the way. Some websites are too busy and hard to digest. It is a simple feature that minimally brings words and intentional pictures to my immediate view. It’s a feature on the mobile version as well and makes websites enjoyable to read in the browser. The font and text size are changeable and there is a read-aloud feature that sounds natural and pleasing to listen to.
Websites are also shareable between mobile and desktop browsers. From mobile to desktop, the option is in the control panel and let me choose which of my devices has Edge. For desktop to mobile, it was just as easy with the help of Microsoft’s Your Phone app. Microsoft did a great job of making cross-platform apps work together.
Edge’s updated PDF reader is also pleasing to use. As someone who uses multiple devices a day for personal use and testing, I was able to markup PDFs without having to use another program or app. It was seamless and universal for all devices. What I mean by that is no matter if the device had a touch screen, stylus, or touchpad input, they all work seamlessly for editing and writing up PDFs. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t change the color of the markup pen from blue. However, I’m sure with updates more choice will come.
The previous version of Edge used browser extensions, but the store was lacking in developers and Chrome extensions were not cross-compatible. Since both are now built on Chromium, Edge can use Chrome extensions and vice versa. I successfully used all my Chrome extensions in the new Edge. The Microsoft extensions store is still small. Nevertheless, it has never been easier for it to grow considering the compatibility for developers. For enterprises, many of them use applications that were programmed 15+ years ago on Internet Explorer that only work on Internet Explorer. Those applications still run on Edge and are compatible with the new Edge. This compatibility is excellent news for those enterprises that have been using 2 browsers- one for those applications and Chrome- they can now use just Edge.
One feature that I wish Edge released when the browser went live is its Collections feature. Collections lets the user add web content to a panel to share, export and organize information. I have yet to test this feature out, but I am excited to see how useful it is.
I have yet to test the battery life for Edge. It will be a determining factor for me to switch over wholesale from Chrome. I don’t necessarily need better battery life from Edge or Chrome. I just want the same battery life that I got before with Chrome.
To end my day using Edge, I was able to enjoy the Edge’s 4k streaming capability on Netflix with Dolby Audio and Dolby Vision. Edge is the only browser that can stream in 4k, and I will be using it, even if I don’t make the wholesale switch on all platforms. This matters to me because I can see 1080P video artifacts on Netflix when I’m using my 4K laptop in bed or the couch.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been this impressed with a Microsoft first-out product than I had with Office 365 when it arrived on the scene. It’s really, really good. The new Edge is really the best of all worlds- it provides the performance of Chrome, the privacy and accessibility of Safari, the seamless backward compatibility of Internet Explorer with some great new and differentiating user experiences. And it can be taken across Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and even supports Arm32, and in the future, Arm64 Window.
For enterprises using two browsers, it’s a no-brainer. For consumers with cross-platform products it’s a no-brainer. For anyone who cares about most about privacy it’s a no-brainer.
Microsoft has done a great job on both the mobile and desktop platforms of making a user-focused browser and everybody, consumer and enterprise, should give it a shot.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.