Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser (for IT pros)

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  • Mary Jo Foley
    Mary Jo Foley

    Our next MJFChat, scheduled for Monday, August 5, is between me and Russell Smith, an IT consultant, trainer and author — as well as a regular contributor. We’re going to talk all about Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser and specifically about what IT pros need to know about it.

    Microsoft announced last December that it was going to remake its Edge browser by using Chromium and making it cross-platform. Since then, Microsoft has fielded Canary and Dev channel versions of Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10, 8.1/8, 7 and macOS. Recently, Microsoft announced it was looking for IT pro/enterprise testers to start kicking the Chromium-based Edge tires.

    What questions do you have for Russell about “Chredge”? No question is too big or too trivial. I’ll be chatting with him on August 5, and will ask some of your best questions directly to him. Just add your questions below and maybe you’ll be mentioned during our next audio chat.


    Chredge has been great. However, features from the old Edge such as annotation, sharing, reading lists are not available. What’s the status of those getting ported to Chredge?

    Brad Sams
    Brad Sams

    You can find an audio replay, here.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>00:04</u> Hi, you’re listening to, MJFChat show. I am Mary Jo Foley, aka your community magnet. I’m here to interview industry experts about various topics that you, our readers and listeners want to know about. So today’s MJF chat is going to be about Microsoft’s chromium based edge browser, which sometimes we affectionately call Chredge. My guest today is Russell Smith an IT consultant, trainer, author and regular contributor to Thank you so much for joining me Russell.

    Russell Smith: <u>00:44</u> Thanks for having me. Mary Jo.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>00:46</u> Looking forward to this one. I myself am running both the Dev and the Beta channels of Chredge right now and I really like it. I’m running it on Windows 7 and 10.

    Russell Smith: <u>00:58</u> Right. Yeah, me too. I’ve been using it I think since the day it was launched or the day after. To be honest, yeah, I love it. Which is surprising because I’ve never really been a big fan of Google Chrome. So as a little bit to dubious, about Chredge, but so far I haven’t really found any problems with it. It does everything that I needed to do.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>01:22</u> That’s awesome. So maybe we should just start at the very beginning for people who don’t know and have you addressed, what is chromium based edge and when do you think it might GA?

    Russell Smith: <u>01:35</u> Yes, Chromium based edge or Chredge is basically an evolution of Microsoft Edge, which is the current browser that ships with windows 10. So if we go back a little bit further, the current version of Edge is actually like a stripped down version of Internet Explorer, but with a new rendering engine that Microsoft developed specifically for Windows 10 Edge and it’s called Edge HTML. Now the problem with the current version of Edge that’s in Windows 10 is well there are a couple of problems I guess, or even more than just a couple. So I guess the first is that it has a very small market share, right? So I don’t know what the market share is. I think it’s like 2% or something.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>02:27</u> I had heard a generously limit of five.

    Russell Smith: <u>02:30</u> Okay. Maybe, maybe five or something like this.

    Russell Smith: <u>02:35</u> Now the problem with having a very small market share is that developers don’t test their websites against it, right? Because, well, why would they? Because nobody’s using it. So you get a lot of issues with sites not rendering properly. Some sites just don’t work. Whether that’s because the developer has decided to put an artificial block in it because they don’t want to support it or whether there’s a feature that Microsoft hasn’t developed within Edge and you find that in Google Chrome. So they develop and test against Google chrome.

    So there are lots of issues with compatibility. think with speed, although Microsoft claims that in certain circumstances the current Edge actually runs faster than chrome. I think that there are also issues with the fact that people just don’t trust Microsoft browsers, obviously. Obviously with the legacy history that we have with Internet explorer. So now we’re at today’s point where Microsoft has basically decided, well they already decided, I guess probably last year and kind of launched, was in January or February this year?

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>03:53</u> Yeah.

    Russell Smith: <u>03:53</u> So it’s all a little bit confusing because as we just discussed offline.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>04:06</u> Yeah, I know that. So we should be clear about why we call this Chredge and you know, besides just, it sounds funny, that’s a joke. Microsoft’s current browser is called edge. The new one when it launches will also be called Edge. So it’s hard to distinguish sometimes between which Ed’s you’re talking about current Edge or the new Edge, which was codenamed Anaheim. I mean, I guess we could use code named Anaheim, but I don’t think a lot of people know that code name.

    Russell Smith: <u>04:31</u> Yeah yeah sure.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>04:31</u> The new Edge also runs not just on windows 10, but on windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Mac OS, so then you have to talk about which Edge you talking about. Then there’s a separate Edge that runs on Android and a separate edge that runs on IOs. So there are a lot of things called edge, right?

    Russell Smith: <u>04:51</u> Yes, yes. So I mean officially, officially this was launched as the Microsoft Edge Insider Preview. I think that’s the kind of official official name. Lots of people are calling it kind of chromium based edge or Chredge for short if you like. The main difference with this version of Edge is that it’s based on an open source project, Chromium, which is actually what Google chrome is based on and it uses a rendering engine called “Blink” right now.

    And as you just said, Mary Jo, the other major differences are that this has been supported on a whole wide variety of platforms including platforms which are just about to go out or supports like Windows 7 and Windows 8 and Mac OS and of course we already have Edge on IOS and Android. So the IOS version is based on Safari or the Safari rendering engine if you like. The android version a of course it’s based on Chromium. So Microsoft actually already has experience building a browser based on Chromium. So that’s basically what’s happening. It’s been a very controversial decision. There are lots of people very unhappy about it because they think that this is going to reduce competition in the marketplace, that now we have one less major browser, whether in fact as we’ve just discussed, it has such a small market share.

    Russell Smith: <u>06:51</u> I don’t think it really matters to be honest. It’s not a real contender anyway.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>06:55</u> So I’ve actually personally found the new Edge to work better on lower power devices like my Surface Go because things like Tweetdeck didn’t use to work well or sometimes even almost at all with the old Edge, but with the new Edge it works so much better. You know, I guess at the time when Microsoft was talking about the reason they did their own version of their browser was to have diversity in the ecosystem and all, I was like, okay, I buy that. But if diversity and heterogeneity means it doesn’t work great, then I’m not for that.

    Russell Smith: <u>07:32</u> Yes, sure. I also think one of the major reasons that Microsoft basically had to do this was because of, well you could say, now we can talk about Windows S mode or Windows S and Microsoft and the Windows Light OS, which is supposed to be coming probably sometime next year because on those devices you cannot install another browser.

    Russell Smith: <u>07:56</u> You are stuck basically with what you have and Microsoft Edge as it stands on Windows 10 as you’ve just said, it just doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t cut it. You know, people are using the browser as the main means for productivity. If you’ve got a browser that you know, doesn’t really work, isn’t compatible or is slow, people are just not going to adopt, you know, Windows Light OS or whatever comes next. You have to have something that is compatible and you know, performs at least as well as Google Chrome, which is what many people use as the default browser. So, you know, it has to be as good as that if not better. I don’t think Microsoft really had a choice to be honest.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>08:41</u> I agree. I don’t know when it will GA, have you, have you heard anything about it?

    Russell Smith: <u>08:48</u> Officially nothing, but I would expect that they will aim to put this into 20H1. I have heard somewhere that they are gradually pulling out the current Edge icons of insider preview builds of 20H1 and I assume that’s to kind of prepare for slipping in the new version of Edge in there.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>09:14</u> I bet you’re right. I bet you’re right. You know the one thing I meant to mention, which I think is a really positive development also about edge is even though it will be part of Windows 10 still, we believe it’ll still be an in box app when you download 20H1 for example. They’re going to be updating it and making it available outside of the operating system even for Windows 10 users. So it’ll be updated through the store. And that means it should be able to be updated more frequently than the operating system itself, which is good news.

    Russell Smith: <u>09:54</u> Yes. That’s also important because the current version of Edge, it gets updated basically only when you get a feature update for Windows 10 and that’s it. So obviously Chrome has been updated once a month.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>10:07</u> Right, right. So I think one of the biggest features that IT Pros are going to be interested in Chredge is this thing called Internet explorer mode or IE mode. Could you talk a little bit about that and what it is and how you actually use it?

    Russell Smith: <u>10:24</u> Yep. So we actually already have Internet Explorer mode for the current edge, right? Basically what it is, it’s a group policy setting where organizations can define a list of sites which they want their users to open in Internet Explorer as it stands in Windows 10. So what actually happens right now is if you’re using Edge and Microsoft 10 and you go to one of these sites that’s been defined by your organization as only compatible with IE, what actually happens is you get a message in the edge browser window that says basically the site is only compatible with IE and it automatically opens up in IE but in a completely different browser. So that’s how it works at the moment. So what Microsoft announced at Build was that the new version of Edge is going to support IE mode as well, but it’s going to work differently.

    Russell Smith: <u>11:28</u> So instead of opening up those legacy sites in Internet Explorer, you will essentially get a new tab in Chredge running the Internet Explorer or rendering engine, if that makes sense. The idea of this is to allow users to just use one browser rather than having Edge or Chredge or IE open as well. Everything will just happen in one browser window. I haven’t actually looked to see how they’ve implemented this in Chredge at the moment, but it might be that the users are not even aware that the new tab is using Internet explorer as a rendering engine if you like. It will be completely seamless to the end user.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>12:16</u> Which is great. So Chredge IE Mode, do you think that’s going to support active x controls and browser helper objects?

    Russell Smith: <u>12:25</u> Yeah, so it is going to be full of compatibility. At least Microsoft says they’re aiming for full compatibility and it will support all of those technologies which were proprietary to Internet explorer. They don’t work in any other browser. So things like active x controls and browser help or objects BHOs. If you have legacy applications or internet site that relies on those things, they will indeed work in Chredge.

    I think it’s worth saying that Internet Explorer mode in Chredge isn’t something, at least I don’t believe this is something Microsoft is going to allow you to just switch on as an end user. You won’t be able to just decide, I want to open a new tab in IE mode. At least that’s not built into it at the moment and I don’t think that’s what they’re going to allow you to do. This is something that you’d have to define and group policy.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>13:18</u> Okay, that’s good.

    Russell Smith: <u>13:19</u> That’s not something you can go into a menu and just find.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>13:22</u> Right, right. Got It. We’ve got a reader question from Hoorge who said, Chredge has been great so far, but do we know exactly which features from the old Edge, like annotation, sharing and reading lists are going to be available? Like, do we even know that all of these will be available and do we know when they’ll be available in Chredge?

    Russell Smith: <u>13:45</u> Microsoft has said that they will bring some of the features across if they think they are wanted and that they make sense. So the short answer is that we don’t know exactly the list of features that are going to be brought across. I would be surprised if they’d bring the lead in risk list across, to be honest. Maybe, I don’t know. Do you use it? Do you know anybody who uses it?

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>14:14</u> I don’t use it, but whenever we talk about it, maybe not being in there, they’re always the people that come out of the woodwork and say, wait, I use that feature. Right. So I don’t think they’re going to be able to do every feature or decide to do every feature. But again, even though they’ve given us a pretty good roadmap of what they’re going to do, especially in the enterprise, I don’t think they’ve actually committed to every feature being in there. But what about security though. What security features do you think?

    Russell Smith: <u>14:47</u> I think they have promised to bring across smart screen. So this is the system that basically checks the website that you’re visiting to see whether it hosts any malicious software, that kind of stuff or kind of efficient website or something like that. So they promised to bring that across. They’ve promised to support Windows Fefender Application Guard, which is the kind of sandboxing system for the entire browser if you like, to isolate it from the base OS. And what else would they promised to bring across?

    Of course, we’ve got now support for more than 180 group policy objects which this something that they recently added a group policy support. So that’s obviously important. They promised to bring across a conditional access and integration with Azure active directory. So quite a lot of that security stuff is coming across because otherwise enterprises are going to wonder why they don’t stick to Edge.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>15:53</u> So yeah, exactly. What about mobile device management deployments in Windows 10?

    Russell Smith: <u>16:01</u> They’ve settled that it’s going to be supported, but the official line at the moment seems to only be within Intune or at least that is what’s written. So I don’t know whether that will be extended to other third party mobile device managements solutions or whether it’s something that we’ll only get with Intune, but it’s definitely on the roadmap.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>16:22</u> Yes. Okay. Okay, good. So I don’t want really want to bring this up because it’s a loaded question, but UWP apps, whatever those are these days. Right. The ones that use Edge HTML, the old rendering engine, will those still be supported in Chredge?

    Russell Smith: <u>16:43</u> Yes. At least what Microsoft has said, is that if you have a UWP app that currently uses Edge HTML, but even when Chredge reaches general availability, but your applications will be able to remain on the existing rendering engine Edge HTML or they will be able to use the new Chredge engine. So it won’t mean that’s when Chredge GA’s that suddenly all of your UWP apps are going to stop working. Now for how long Microsoft will support that situation of course is another question. It doesn’t make sense in my mind to support Edge HTML forever of course. Right. But at least in the short term there will be some duality in rendering engines if you like.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>17:39</u> I mean, I think that’s a good move because you know, Microsoft heritage is supporting legacy and they got people who are developing apps to commit to using eight Edge’s HTML. It would be kind of, I dunno, uncharacteristic of them to just suddenly say, and by the way, we’re not doing that anymore as of whenever edge, the new Edge GA’s. I think they do need to give people a ramp. Right?

    Russell Smith: <u>18:02</u> Yeah. I think you see that they’re still supporting IE 11 four years after Edge GA] and windows 10, so. I think, you know, you’re going to have five or six years support of Edge to Edge HTML as a minimum. They have to anyway, I think because you’ve got the long-term service in branch of windows 10 as well, right. Which is what, four or five years of support. So they can’t just ditch html.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>18:27</u> I think it’s 10. Is it 10 still?

    Russell Smith: <u>18:27</u> Yeah. It might be 10, even if you include the extended part. So I don’t think, you know that they’re going to suddenly ditch Edge HTML. That’s not going to happen either.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>18:37</u> Let’s talk a little bit about the new Edge on Windows 7. I think this was a smart move for Microsoft to decide to deploy this because even though windows seven is officially no longer supported by Microsoft as of January, 2020, there’s still going to be people who are running it, unsupported and they’re also going to be people who buy the extended support contracts from Microsoft and continued to run it for up to three years.

    So I think it was a good move for them to bring this to Windows 7 finally. Especially because I know a lot of companies, and larger enterprises too, you know, they may buy Windows 10 and downgrade it through their licensing rights so that everybody’s running the same version of Windows. But what do you think about them supporting Windows 7? As a secondary part to the question, what about automating deployment of Chredge to Windows 7?

    Russell Smith: <u>19:38</u> Well, of course one of the big problems with UWP apps and Edge itself in Windows 10 was that there was no legacy support for Windows 7. Of course when Windows 10 launched, you know most of the world was still using Windows 7. I don’t know what percentage of Windows deployments are now Windows 10 versusWwindows seven I don’t know. Has it reached 50 50 or whatever it is.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>20:05</u> Yeah. I just saw a new stat this week that’s high 30 percentage points are still running Windows 7.

    Russell Smith: <u>20:12</u> There is still a sizeable population that is using Windows 7. Of course if you exclude them for those new technologies, then of course developers are going to think, well now why would I write a UWP app on Windows 10 if you know most of the world is still running Windows 7 at least that was the case four years ago. You know, I think the same situation with Edge now. If Microsoft is serious about Edge, really getting hold on the market, then they have to make it available everywhere.

    If Windows XP has anything to go by, you know, Windows 7 isn’t going to die inJanuary 2020. As you said, there’s the many, many reasons why people might, organizations might still use it. There are also windows virtual desktop, which is still in preview, but when that GAs, I don’t know whether that’s due to GA, but when that GAs, you will also be able to choose to use Windows 7 for a limited period of time. So that’s the virtualization in the cloud, of Windows not just going to be Windows 10. Also Microsoft offering Windows 7 after January 2020 there. So again, they need to have this browser support it because otherwise you’re excluding a whole chunk of your corporate customers. And of course your consumer customers who just basically won’t upgrade Windows until their PC dies, you know.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>21:46</u> What about automation of deployment Windows stuff?

    Russell Smith: <u>21:49</u> Yeah, so automation, this is going to be provided. So Chredge is going to be provided in the form of an offline installer across all of the supportive platforms. So basically you will be able to deploy it using pretty much any deployment solution like system center configuration manager for instance, or any other deployment solution that works with Microsoft install technology. You’ll be able to use it, um, unlike the current version of Edge where it’s completely baked into the OS and there’s no other way to deploy it. It’ll be widely configurable in terms of deployment.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>22:32</u> Okay. Great. Anything else you want to add that you think IT pros might be interested in knowing about the coming Chromium based Edge?

    Russell Smith: <u>22:44</u> So what else? It’s going to have enterprise grade integrated PDF support and I’m not quite sure what they mean by enterprise grade, but we’re going to get that. In terms of features coming over from the existing Edge, I do think it’s probably quite likely, I’ll be surprised if they don’t bring across, the One Note annotation feature just because that’s something they pushed quite a lot on the Surface products. So I’d be surprised to see that go. But who knows? Maybe it depends on how, you know, is it really used as often as we think it’s used or as often as Microsoft would like us to think that it’s used.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>23:25</u> You know what I heard, um, this is still kind of unconfirmed but genuinely positive speculation. They’re going to bring Chredge to Linux I believe.

    Russell Smith: <u>23:36</u> Oh, right, okay. I hadn’t heard that.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>23:37</u> Which, you know, some people are like, oh, you know, how many people really would use it on Linux? Well, if you’re going to have it be a MacOS I think having an on Linux is probably a good idea too. Especially the way Microsoft these days is putting a lot of support into the Window subsystem for Linux and Linux in general.

    Russell Smith: <u>23:57</u> Well maybe, I mean I guess the Chrome is available for Linux, I guess it must be. If chrome is on Linux and I think Chredge also needs to be on Linux, so that makes a lot of sense. If market share is part of the goal here, then of course it needs to be there as well. It needs to be everywhere that Chrome is.

    Mary Jo Foley: <u>24:16</u> It does. I think that is the perfect end point to this podcast. It was a good slogan. So for all of you regular listeners here, we’re going to be back in a couple of weeks with our next guest, so be sure to watch for that. I’ll be posting the information on and that will be your signal listeners to send in your questions. All you have to do is go to the MJFChat area and the forums on and submit questions right in there in regard to this chat with Russell. Look for the audio and the transcript of it as with all of our chats in the next few days. Thanks again, Russell for doing this.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by Brad Sams Brad Sams.
    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by Mary Jo Foley Mary Jo Foley.
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