The new browser is codenamed Anaheim and will use software from Chromium, Google’s open-source project on which Chrome is based, Windows Central reported Monday. Specifically, it’ll use Google’s Blink, the browser engine with the key job of interpreting website coding and displaying it on your screen, the report said. An announcement about the plans could come this week, the Verge reported.
Microsoft declined to comment. However, one source familiar with the company’s plans confirmed that Microsoft indeed plans to package its own browser software around a Chromium core.
If the move indeed comes to pass, it’ll make life easier for web developers who won’t have to bother testing their software with as many browsers. But the flip side of that coin is that it means the web becomes less an independent technology platform and more whatever Google’s Chrome programmers say it is. Ten years after it was first introduced publicly, Chrome dominates the web.
The web already lost a major independent browser engine when Opera mostly killed its own Presto in 2013, ultimately moving to Chrome’s technology. There are still two browser forces independent from Chrome: Mozilla’s Firefox, which uses the Gecko browser engine, and Apple’s Safari, which uses WebKit.
Independent projects are useful for experimenting with new technology such as Firefox’s WebRender, which could make web pages display dramatically faster. Independent engines also let browser makers and web developers figure out the best way to balance priorities like security, speed and programmability when developing new web standards.
Edge still lags IE
Edge, which is based on the EdgeHTML rendering engine, has struggled since it came to Windows 10 in 2015 as a replacement for Internet Explorer. It held a little over 2 percent of the browser market in November, according to StatCounter, while Chrome ruled overall at 62 percent.
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Edge lags even Internet Explorer, the browser it was designed to replace. One part of the problem: Windows 7 remains widely used, but Edge runs only on Windows 10. So even though Edge and EdgeHTML help offer an independent voice about the future of the web, they didn’t have much clout in practice.
There’s change afoot with other browsers as well. Chrome itself just underwent its first redesign in a decade — Google has been rethinking its browser to keep pace with the massive shift from desktop computing to mobile. Apple’s Safari has been incorporating new privacy features, and Mozilla’s Firefox has been adjusting its approach to ad tracker blocking. The ad-blocking Brave browser is in the midst of a major overhaul, too.
Microsoft’s Edge browser for Android already uses Google’s browser technology, too.
If Microsoft does indeed switch to Chromium technology, it’ll be in good company. In addition to Opera, companies building browsers built on Chrome technology include Samsung, Brave, Yandex, Baidu and Vivaldi.
In September, Microsoft reversed course on a hostile approach to non-Edge browsers on Windows 10 by removing a warning against installing rival browsersfrom a test version.