For a software company, Microsoft has an inconsistent track record when it comes to actually producing decent software. I can only imagine a lot of this may stem from internal politics and design by committee. Their failure to piece together a decent web browser over the last decade was starting to become down right embarrassing for a company which once held 95% of the browser marketshare. Back “in the day’, Internet Explorer was without question the best web browser out there. It wasn’t until Microsoft disbanded the IE team, Firefox came along, and later Google Chrome, that IE started to look like old-hat. The Trident engine was dragged kicking and screaming into the touchscreen age but was never able to keep up, in terms of both features and performance. Even a rebrand from from the 90’s inspired Internet Explorer to the play on words that is “Edge” (Edge was the name of a mode for Internet Explorer that was on the “bleeding edge” and would allowed the latest HTML features to be supported) couldn’t save it.
Now though Edge has been reborn using the same engine as Chrome, Blink. Gone is the legacy of Trident. Now we have what is essentially Google Chrome but without the annoying things Google likes to do. It’s strange, but it’s similar to Netscape and Mozilla. Netscape after being bought by AOL ended up being bloated out as a way to sell other products. Chrome feels this way these days. Privacy enhancing settings are buried deep in the settings so that no casual user would every find them. That and the browser really wants you to sign into your Google account and synchronise everything, even if you really don’t want to. Edge however is a breath for fresh air. On my 7 year old MacBook it flies by, and anecdotally seems faster than Safari. It supports Chrome plugins, and so is actually better than Safari in this respect. Safari took the regressive decision to require plugins install a full Mac application. On my even older Windows laptop, Edge manages to hide the hardware’s age with surprising grace. Microsoft make it easy to turn off 3rd party cookies and offer other privacy enhancing settings. The browser seems to be written for users and not for the benefit of its creator, a sure good sign. If you decide you don’t want to sign in, it’s not overly pushy about reminding you, even though I’m likely to actually trust Microsoft with my bookmarks and browsing history, and so will probably end up creating an account.
It feels odd seeing the word “Favourites” instead of “Bookmarks” in the menu bar. It takes me back to using the web as a teenager in the late 90s and using the last version of Internet Explorer for Mac on Mac OS X version 1 back in 2001.
At work, I’ve switched from Firefox to Edge. At home, I’m seriously considering switching from Safari to Edge. The only thing holding me back is the lack of synchronised reading list between Safari on my iPhone. When Apple eventually allow Edge to become the default browser on iOS too, I’ll give it more serious consideration.