The upcoming release of Microsoft Windows, Windows 10 will come with a totally new browser that Microsoft says that’s more suitable for the modern web. The new browser is called Microsoft Edge or Project Spartan as it was first introduced in the technical preview. The new browser won’t totally eliminate Internet Explorer which is still used in the corporate environment.
Before assessing whether Microsoft Edge is the browser of the future or not let’s have a better understanding of the underlying technology of the browser; Microsoft Edge is based on a forked trident rendering engine. The trident engine is the rendering engine currently used by Internet Explorer. In Microsoft Edge browser Microsoft has dropped support for legacy code and started supporting modern web standards and will even support extensions, just like Google Chrome. Microsoft Edge won’t rely on WebKit which is the core of browsers like Google Chrome, Safari and Opera.
After having a better understanding of the core technology of the new browser let’s find out what does this new browser can do that the old Internet Explorer couldn’t. First, the new browser has a reading mode in which all of the clutter (ads, sidebars, etc.) are removed and only the stripped down version of the web page is presented to help you, the reader focus on what you actually want, the content. It’s worth noting that the reading mode was introduced to Firefox and it’s now natively supported. Is the reading mode a revolutionary thing that is really a breakthrough making Microsoft Edge the browser of the future, well it’s a nice to have feature in the modern era of the web but it’s not revolutionary per se.
Second, annotation; Microsoft edge allows you to annotate websites and share it with your co-workers, family and friends. That’s very helpful especially in the work environment and for blogger’s creating tutorials. Of course Internet Explorer didn’t support annotation, as a matter of fact no other browser supported annotation natively making Microsoft Edge the first browser that supports annotation natively. It’s worth clarifying that we’re here talking about native support without relying on any third party add-on or extension. Now the question, does this feature makes Microsoft Edge the browser of the future; well, it’s a real differentiator and it might sway many who rely heavily on this feature to switch to the new browser.
Third, Cortana; The integration of Cortana (Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Google Now and Apple Siri) to the new browser is limited at the moment, it only allows the user to highlight a phrase or a word that you can’t understand and gives you the option to ask Cortana, which will use Bing to search the internet for its definition. Just like “search Google for……” in Chrome. This is not totally new for a web browser but Microsoft playing catch up. In the future (not that far into future) Cortana should be able to do a lot more and would be even more integrated to the browser, but until that happens, Cortana integration to Microsoft Edge is still limited.
Now, let’s talk about usability (interface and page load speed) which is the most crucial parts of any browser. Microsoft Edge is by far more superior to Internet Explorer with respect to interface and page loading speed. The interface is minimalist and is a back to basics move by Microsoft and the page load speed is on par with modern web browsers like Firefox, Chrome and Safari. Again, Microsoft is just playing catch up.
Now, to sum things up and answer our main question, is Microsoft Edge the browser of the future? Microsoft Edge’s Cortana integration, annotation and reading mode are features that are nice to have and might win Microsoft back some market share but Microsoft is still playing catch up in a lot of aspect. We just don’t see Microsoft Edge as the browser of the future, not yet at least.