Has Microsoft got its edge back?


With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft’s new Edge browser has arrived! For most IT professionals, the immediate local impact will be fairly limited: Certainly in large enterprises, it won't be rolled out for some time, as it requires Windows 10 and very few will be considering an OS refresh this early in the life-cycle of a product (even one showing such promise). For their web developer and marketing cousins however, a different story altogether...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you already know that Microsoft has started pushing out Windows 10 to current (non-enterprise) Windows 7 and 8 users at a rate of 14 million per week. Much to the anger and annoyance of browser makers such as Mozilla, it seems that Microsoft’s “quick settings” for users installing Windows 10 automatically change the default browser to Edge. That being the case, as Microsoft adds around 2 million Windows 10 users daily, Edge market share is set to grow. Fast.

Unsurprisingly, this means that if you offer browser based SaaS or apps, if you’re in news or other media, eCommerce or online banking, if you accept online payments - in fact, if you interact with customers via a browser at all, it’s time to pay attention.

The good news is that, in our tests, Edge does live up to (at least some of) the hype. It’s fast, rendering many pages in half the time of Internet Explorer and quicker than Chrome or Firefox in the majority of cases. It’s simple and easy to use, with a clean look and clear iconography. Its touch friendly, offering nicely spaced buttons and subsequent consistency across devices. Most importantly, it renders pages similarly to the current generation of browsers, presenting no major differences in forms, native players, font rendering, or CSS interpretation - Essentially if your pages are HTML 5 or earlier and make use of modern client-side technology such as CSS and Javascript, there don’t seem to be any nasty surprises lurking.

Edge has finally seen the death of the much maligned Internet Explorer rendering engine, which never quite kept up with the modern web. Built from the ground up, Edge has been created to move Microsoft firmly back into the domain of the web developer and offer a credible choice for the home user. Although not perfect yet (we had some unexplained crashes amongst other issues during testing), Edge was born a browser-heavyweight and is here to stay.

A few more notable features include:

  • Solid Cortana and Windows 10 integration
  • “Webnote”, Edge’s new system for annotating screenshots - particularly good on touch devices like Surface.
  • Reading list - not favourites, just stuff you want to read later (other browsers such as Safari already feature this)
  • Various security improvements designed to separate the browser from the operating system, which should reduce vulnerabilities.

For those worried about compatibility with legacy systems, Windows 10 still features a copy of Internet Explorer, but new apps and sites should almost certainly not be developed with IE in mind as the primary browser.

In fact, in the long-term, even if you don’t use it yourself, Edge will most likely make your life easier as it inevitably takes market share from Internet Explorer. Like Chrome and others, Edge will keep itself up-to-date, meaning that support for multiple end-of-life versions will be minimised so you can focus your resources on just one. Unlike Google Chrome however, Edge isn’t currently available across platforms, so unauthorised “creep” into enterprise will be minimal in the short term. That said, as IT leaders have learned in the last few years - if users want technology they can’t get, they tend to bring their own.

So for now, there's no need to panic, but certainly Edge needs to be part of any strategy for IT leaders, software managers, website operators and marketers. It is the window through which millions of users will be seeing the internet for years to come, so ignore it at your peril.

For more information, check out http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/microsoft-edge

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