Almost two weeks ago, Microsoft announced that it will be rebuilding its in-house Edge browser from Chromium, all but ditching its EdgeHTML rendering engine. There are many reasons for the change, and the speculation goes even beyond that. Microsoft said that it will do a better job of standardizing the web; using the same open-source browser as Google’s Chrome makes things easier on developers.
Former software engineering intern on the Edge team at Microsoft Joshua Bakita says otherwise though. In a post on Hacker News, Bakita says that one of the reasons for the switch was because Google kept changing up their web apps, making them not run properly on other browsers.
Here’s the full post:
“For example, they may start integrating technologies for which they have exclusive, or at least ‘special’ access. Can you imagine if all of a sudden Google apps start performing better than anyone else’s?”
This is already happening. I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up. For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.
Now while I’m not sure I’m convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced – and they’re the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.
And this is only one case.
What’s particularly interesting about this is that whether Google did this intentionally or not, Microsoft fell into a trap that it set for itself. When Bakita says, “we couldn’t keep up”, and goes on to say that the issue is fixed in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, that’s actually because Microsoft set a path for itself where it could only add new features to Edge with feature updates to Windows 10. That limits the company to twice per year.
With the new Chromium-based Edge, the browser will finally be separated from the OS, so it can be updated independently. That’s a big change because that means that it can be updated as often as the Edge team wants.