Owen Williams is a freelance writer and developer who thinks of new ways to get the news. He created Charged ( https: // char.gd ) an independent technology newsletter and blog that helps people with the important ones Staying up to date
After more than 20 years fighting for Internet relevance, Microsoft plans to remove the underlying architecture of its Internet browser in favor of Chromium.
That alone is monumental and the Internet has responded with cheers and cheers as you would expect: the legacy of Internet Explorer is finally dead!
But we just learned the full picture when Microsoft announced the move on GitHub Thursday, and it's even bigger than we could have dreamed. Edge not only uses Chromium as a rendering engine, but Microsoft is actively investing in the evolution of the open source engine to optimize it for every device that touches it.
A rendering engine is the software that your browser uses to display the web pages. Different rendering engines have different idiosyncrasies and functions maintained by their own parent companies, with Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, and Apple being the most widely used today.
Here's a little bit from the company's lengthy, in-depth contribution to making this change:
"We will continue to develop the Microsoft Edge app architecture and distribute it to all supported versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8 and Windows 1
This is the full message for the entire industry. It is ready to make the Web a first-class experience on par with developing native applications and making it a much better experience. A wide range of Internet users who may not be able to influence which browser they use.
The Web has already swallowed all native application development, but it gets a lot better. Here are some reasons why this news is exciting and will open the next chapter for the Web:
Web Browser as a First Class Citizen
One of today's biggest problems is despite the popularity of Chromium's in Really, not very good on resources: it gets battery power, consumes system resources, and generally does not play well. This is largely because Google and Chromium do not have their own operating system (outside of ChromeOS) and do not have exclusive access to low-level system APIs that Safari and Edge have already enjoyed.
Because Microsoft and Apple had their own first-party browsers in the past. Chromium was always meant to be worse: the project simply did not have the platform resources these giants had, and always built one level further than the official browsers of each platform.
This step changes everything about this equation. Microsoft can basically bake Chromium in Windows and the Edge browser. This means that it is possible to embed a world-class experience in any app with a native Windows Chromium view, and It is ported to MacOS :
"Outside of Microsoft Edge browsers sometimes see users of other browsers on Windows PCs with inconsistent feature sets and performance / battery life on device types. Some browsers were slower to use new Windows features such as touch and ARM processors. As you know, we've recently started posting posts that provide this kind of hardware support for Chromium-based browsers, and we believe this approach can be generalized. "
Microsoft essentially states that it will do so. A top-class browsing experience, regardless of the platform for which you have developed, with the same engine on each device. It's not just intended to optimize Windows for Chromium, but also that it works by porting it to ARM-based devices like the iPhone and to make sure it's resource-efficient at the very core: the OS level.
But what's really important is the result of all this work: the absolute best way to build cross-platform apps that are on a scale we've never seen before.
The Web as a Desktop Platform
If you're a company of any size and would like to create an app for desktop or laptop users, honestly, the best choice today is Electron. It is no accident that Microsoft has acquired GitHub, which coincidentally comes with a small project called Electron as part of this acquisition.
Many popular apps use Electron under the hood, including Slack, Visual Studio code, WhatsApp desktop and many more, especially because it's so easy to address multiple system types with a single common language.
Today, however, Electron has one major drawback: it's based on the Chromium browser, which means it's bundled with an entire instance for every application it uses on your computer. For example, when Slack and Chrome are open, two isolated Chromium instances are created that consume both resources to do about the same thing.
This shift makes it easy to envision a single common thread for Chromium over Windows, which is quite possible access from any electron-based instance. Such a change would allow Electron apps to be more efficient, more stable, and more user-friendly with system resources (especially storage and battery).
Not only that, but also because Microsoft provides all Chromium technical resources. Browser-based, electron-based apps will provide a touch-friendly experience for the killer and provide the stage for convertible devices to truly replace laptops.
If Electron, despite its massive limitations, was already overwhelmingly the preferred platform This will open a new tidal wave of web-based apps on the desktop. Why should you build in a different language at this time, if you can write once and run everywhere?
This is the web technology
ready. Over the years, Microsoft has made many attempts to create frameworks for developers who have failed miserably. There was Silverlight, XAML, WPF, Metro, whatever you can imagine, but for the most part, any technology has struggled to get developers to a scale that matters to them.
Recently, however, Microsoft went all-in with next-generation progressive web apps. PWAs have been one of the most exciting developments on the Internet for years. Web-based applications can access many native functions without requiring a wrapper like Electron. They work offline, can send notifications, cache data, and so on, and many app developers like Twitter have developed compelling, first-class PWA experiences that work well on Windows.
The Ultimate Power Move Microsoft shows how committed it is to the Web as a platform for the future of apps. Developers should create PWAs for the Microsoft Store, but now they are using the resources to build these apps at home on the operating system and are spending vast amounts of resources to make them an excellent experience Regardless of whether you use one in Chrome or an Electron wrapper.
Not only is this the most constructive result, it's also the key to opening up the desktop environment for the next generation of web-enabled tools. If you write an application that allows each device to be customized, it will disappear, and Microsoft would like to have this as its bet for the future.
The strategy differences here are very very very different from that of Apple. This has largely ignored any feature of the open network that could jeopardize its own dominance. There are no web-based notifications in Safari on iOS or the ability to perform tasks or caching in the background, and so on. Marzipan, Apple's next-generation, cross-platform app development framework, has essentially ported iOS apps for Mac-based hardware.
Microsoft throws all of the platform's nonsense out the window and says it's just so like to give developers a great, consistent way to create apps that work everywhere and are written once. Sounds good to me and this changes the game after years of bickering about the native platform for which it would be best to write.
As it turned out, this was the net all the time. I believe that in the long term, this is the right horse to rely on, especially as web tooling continues to improve despite its age.
This is only the beginning.
It is still early, and Microsoft's plans are not yet completely finished, but I am pleased that we are moving into a new gait where web-based technology is treated as a technology first-time vendor by the operating system vendors.
To be clear, there are disadvantages of this change: the Web as a platform narrows to a duopoly of rendering engines, only with Chromium, Webkit (a Chromium variant) and Gecko forces Firefox , ditched. Less choice hurts us all, as the CEO of Mozilla has pointed out in a post about the news that do not contain swear words:
"Google is so close to almost completely controlling the infrastructure of our online life that it may not be profitable is fighting on. […] From a social, civic and individual perspective, it's terrible to give control of basic online infrastructure to a single company. "
It's amazing that this is the right thing to do, even if it happens with Microsoft's long history in web browsers. It's not that long ago that Microsoft was fined antitrust by users for enforcing Internet Explorer, but today's Microsoft has repeatedly shown it wants to open a new leaf.
It's true that less choice is bad and may even hurt alternative browsers like Firefox, but it's hard to justify that Microsoft continues to develop a dedicated browser that no one really wanted to use.
This time is different as Chromium is an open source project that already involves multiple contributors. Therefore, Microsoft places great value on promoting collaboration rather than leaving it to Google alone.
If you can not beat them, join them and it seems Microsoft is putting on the internet in the long run.