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From a profit viewpoint, why should Microsoft support Edge?

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WolfIcefang
Contributor

EDIT: I should preface this message by saying that everything here is purely speculative, and is the result of, probably, 15 minutes of searching. I do not know what reasons Microsoft had for creating the original Microsoft Edge or this new version, and I do not know if Bing is important to Edge's success. Please don't think of any of these theories as facts. END OF EDIT.

 

I think we can mostly agree that Microsoft Edge is, or at least will be, pretty great. It has collections, a music control thing, a development team that actively listens to user input, a nice looking NTP, and way more coming "soon".

 

However, a big question started bothering me this afternoon: Why is Microsoft developing a Chromium Web Browser? Well, let's look back at where this all began: Project Spartan.

https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2015/03/30/introducing-project-spartan-the-new-browser-b...

Spartan was meant to be way more user-friendly, faster, and less power hungry than Chrome. It was supposed to do to Chrome what Chrome had done to Internet Explorer and Firefox. But more than that: Spartan's tagline was The New Browser Built for Windows 10. If you wanted to use the best new browser, you had to have a Windows machine. Furthermore, if you wanted to use some of Edge's best new features, like Inking on Web Pages, you would need a pen, and essentially, if you needed a pen, you needed a Microsoft Surface Tablet. So from my best guess, Microsoft saw that the web browser had become the most important piece of software and wanted to create a browser that would make their hardware sell like hotcakes.

 

https://youtu.be/q4rL_Lnt6kA

 

Obviously, that didn't happen.

 

So, at the tail end of 2018, Microsoft announced that Spartan Edge would be replaced by Chromium Edge. This was so exciting; now Edge would be just as fast and stable as Chrome, but with a plethora of new Microsoft tools and UI enhancements! I'm really loving the new Microsoft Edge for exactly those reasons, but there's a problem:

"from a profit standpoint, why should Microsoft support Edge?"

Edge runs on Windows 7, 8.1 and Mac just as well as it runs on Windows 10. Furthermore, Edge inherited a lot of Chrome's clunky mouse / keyboard based UI, so it isn't a shining example of the Surface hardware or the Fluent UI software. If Edge isn't a tool to market Windows, and Edge can't generate profits on its own, then why is Microsoft spending so many resources on this project? Maybe we can look at the new marketing page for Edge:

clipboard_image_0.png

 

Oh no.

 

Bing is supposedly one of the main reasons to download Edge. In fact, it gets its own page! Bing definitely generates revenue for Microsoft through the incorporation of advertising, but relying on Bing to fund Edge raises two really big alarms for me:

First off, Bing is to Google Search what Spartan Edge was to Chrome. Sure, both Bing and Google work, but most people use Google.

Second, Edge can't force users to search with Bing. Bing is a website, the same as Google.com. It's really easy to get to Google.com in Microsoft Edge. Maybe this is why Edge made it super difficult to change search providers? Seriously, "default search provider" is the very last option in Privacy and Services. The only way to hide it better would be to put it "in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard." - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This partnership with Bing is strenuous at best, and the perceived reliance on Bing's revenue seems ill-fated.

 

Regardless of how popular Edge becomes in two years, what will happen to it?

In two years, how big will Edge's development team be? In two years, will the development team be able to pump out features like they have in 2019?

 

I really want to see Edge achieve, and maintain, a status as one of the most innovative and well-designed web browsers available. As much as I am afraid to kick this beehive, the importance of the topic feels too great to let slide. Hopefully, someone can provide an answer.

During the presentation, 'How to migrate applications, data, and workloads to Microsoft Azure,' the presenter had to shift from Microsoft Edge to Google Chrome to get the work done. Complete video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eELI2J-CpZg All credits to the Microsoft Ignite / YouTube Channel
14 Replies
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I think switching to Chromium was a good decision, now not 1 company but 2 are working on it. For Edge that's all just under the hood stuff, they aren't things normal users see or even need to know.
the user interface is the most important thing here, that's why the new Edge needs to be more like old Edge in terms of its unique functionalities.

now that both Google chrome and Microsoft Edge use the same browser engine, the competition is about who makes the best User Interface and who can implement better unique features.

it has also benefits for extension developers since they don't have to write it for both EdgeHTML and Chromium.
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While I agree with everything you're saying, you haven't really answered my question. All of the reasons you've given here are altruistic (that is, morally good.) Two major companies working on optimizations, a better user interface, more features, and less work for extension developers are all "nice" things to have, but they aren't easy to monetize. I guess both Microsoft and Google need fast browsers for their business software suites to run on, so maybe I was being too cynical about it in this post.
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Yeah that's true as well, Microsoft wanted, or better say, deserved a great browser like Edge, so they developed it. and that will give them back their lost browser market share. so even though Edge is a freeware but I think having a grip on market is profitable :)
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@HotCakeX They need to do a better job of implementing the smoothness of the old edge though. Even when it was slow, it wasn't stressful, because the browser ran smoothly at 60 fps.

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Stressful!?
the new Edge doesn't run in 60FPS? how do you even measure it?
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@HotCakeX Stressful: IDK why, but when the browser loads roughly it really messes with me. I think it might be related to the spinners in the tabs. The old browser did a really good job of keeping them spinning with no jerks or breaks, regardless of what the rest of the browser was doing.

 

You can kind of tell if its 60 fps or less, especially if you can compare it to the legacy edge. The scrolling is also a part of it, so if the page jerks to a stop a couple of times before it stops, you know its lower than that, at least for the moment, because 60 will smoothly animate it all. 

 

I'm probably overthinking it, and it might be a blink problem. Who knows.

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The only thing that can look smooth to you is when the frame rate is in sync with your monitor refresh rate.
the frame rate could be higher than 60 and still doesn't look smooth. that's the whole reason why V-sync exists.

scrolling in new Edge needs a bit more improvements, it's on the top feedback list too but I don't feel the interface is being run in less than 60fps
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@HotCakeX Are you using a powerful computer? I'm using a low end one and when I have a lot of tabs open and the power mode is on better battery, it starts to (jump, slip, glitch, i guess) when I'm scrolling on touchscreen.

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Not really, on my Non-gaming rig, I have only a i7 7700k, Intel IGPU, 16GB DDR4. it's mainstream, neither high end, nor low end. already 3-4 years old.

I have a 10 years old laptop as well, it has had Canary channel for month, none of them are experiencing any noticeable visual issues mentioned above.
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Solution

@WolfIcefang I think the value of Edge and Bing are more clear when evaluated not only as individual revenue-generating products, but also as infrastructure for Microsoft's wider cloud, enterprise and consumer services. New features as well as integration within/across platforms and work/life activities are all dependent on Microsoft control over their own browser and search engine. The decision to base Edge on Chromium was brilliant because it allows Microsoft to develop features important to it's own ecosystem on top of an open-source browser engine that already enjoys the broadest compatibility and support.

 

The new Microsoft Search functionality is a good example of cross-domain integration. Information can be surfaced from work domains and integrated with search results from the Web and your local device. I'm also making great use of the new multi-user profile capability. I run a personal browser session along with multiple Edge profiles authenticating to client domains. These kinds of features would be a nightmare if not impossible to implement and support in someone else's browser or search engine. 

 

BTW, in my experience, Bing caught up with Google search 5 or 6 years ago. I've been using Bing as my default search engine ever since. With the new fast, stable, compatible and feature-rich Edge on my PC and Android Edge on my mobile devices over the last 7-8 months, Chrome and Firefox are rarely used anymore.

 

Edit: Non-substantive grammar/clarity improvements.

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@HotCakeX When comparing the scrolling to classic edge, and I'm talking about touchscreen scrolling, not touchpad or mouse scrolling, it jumps while slowing down.

I did a little testing and sometimes its fine and other times its a little jumpy, and other times its lurching(i guess is the best way to describe it, like when you drop the clutch in 1st gear with no gas). I'm not really sure whats causing it, but i can live with it for now i guess.

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Well I've heard the experience on touch screen devices isn't as good as in devices with mouse and touch pads. I don't own any touch screen tablets/laptops at the moment, only phone, so can't argue about that.
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@HotCakeX 

That's strange... I've had the exact opposite experience on my device! I have a 4k display, and the touch screen scrolling is smooth as silk, while the trackpad is jerky (not any worse than Chrome, but noticeably worst than built in Windows apps like Calendar and Mail. To be fair, Windows defaults my screen's refresh rate to 59Hz for some reason, so I might have a unique case. 

 

Also, scrolling with a traditional mouse wheel seems a lot smoother than before - that must have been optimized recently!

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Sometimes my refresh rate is by default set to 59Hz too, I use HDMI. so I just go to the graphic settings and change it to 60Hz.
yeah on canary there are new flags and optimizations around scrolling
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