Microsoft has released a new browser along with Windows 10 and it’s their browser of the future. Edge is meant to fully replace Internet Explorer, which is being phased out. A wholesale change such as this does not occur very often. We will discuss some of the salient features of Edge and its potential to make life easier for SEOs by eliminating cross-browser compatibility issues.
How Did Edge Originate?
Edge began as an effort to improve Internet Explorer’s rendering software, which is called Trident. Rendering software is the filter through which all web content must pass prior to being displayed to a user. Rendering software can distort this content and prevent it from being displayed as the original designer intended. Workarounds for browser anomalies is a common issue for developers seeking to have cross-browser compatible code.
Trident is over 18 years old and it has grown large and unwieldy as updates and bug fixes were added over time. Edge was designed in an effort to produce novel rendering software in order to eliminate the cumbersome and bug filled Trident code. Over time, Microsoft decided to replace the entire browser, giving birth to MS Edge. Edge is designed to be Microsoft’s browser of the future so it is likely to have an impact upon internet marketers for the foreseeable future.
Improvements Over IE
A main benefit of Edge over its predecessor is much better adherence to web standards. By supporting the latest standards cross-browser compatibility issues are virtually eliminated. Consequently, web developers will not have to spend time writing custom code to work around browser anomalies.
Fortunately, we can view the standards that have been implemented in Edge by viewing Edge’s status page: https://dev.windows.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/platform/status/
Edge and the Mobile Web
Microsoft has not fared well in the mobile market. Mobile operating systems are dominated by Android and iOS and the browsers that accompany these operating systems are based upon WebKit, which is open source code for rendering on mobile devices. Consequently, a lot of mobile sites were designed to work with WebKit functionality. Quite often sites designed to work with WebKit will not recognize the user string from IE on a mobile site and render desktop software rather than mobile code, resulting in a less than ideal user experience.
To avoid this issue, Edge was designed to mimic Google Chrome and Apple Safari in order to insure that website code designed for WebKit will render properly on mobile devices with Edge. Microsoft has designed Edge to behave identically to WebKit in order to alleviate any compatibility issues. While this demonstrates Microsoft’s acquiescence to a less than dominant position in the mobile market, it does insure browser compatibility and it is beneficial to developers who no longer have to wrestle with these issues.
Increased Update Frequency
Microsoft has been notoriously slow in adopting updates that involve bug fixes and changes and additions to web standards. Updates are generally generated for Google Chrome and Firefox every two months or so whereas updates to IE have normally occurred every one to two years. Therefore, users had to deal with bugs and do without updates for quite some time.
First, consider a world where some version of IE came out that perfectly supported every known web standard. Now, let’s say the day after that version of IE was released, a new web standard was created. It would be at least year or more before IE would support that standard, whereas Chrome or Firefox could support it in a month or two. For example, developers had to deal with the inability of IE to support HTML5 for quite some time. It appears that with Edge, Microsoft is finally going to deliver updates on a timely basis similar to its competitors. Microsoft claims they are committed to regular bug fixes and feature updates as soon as they are available.
The Impact of Edge Moving Forward
With the introduction of Edge, Microsoft is dramatically changing the way it releases and supports its web browsers. Edge has much better support of standards, which will alleviate most of the problems developers have with compatibility issues. Edge also mimics other browsers such as Chrome and Firefox so that it should work seamlessly on mobile devices. The accelerated development cycle being deployed with Edge will ensure that bugs are resolved quickly and new web standards are adopted and adhered to.
Edge’s Pros and Cons
Pros – Edge is lightweight and very fast. Its interface is straightforward and it provides a reading mode. It provides sharing and page markup features and has built in PDF and Flash support. Of course as we already mentioned it has excellent standards support and it integrates Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant.
Cons – As of yet there are no extensions for Edge, which is a significant drawback. It is anticipated that extensions will become available in the second half of 2016. In addition, Edge does not furnish a history search.
Getting Started With Edge
A user can get edge by upgrading their Windows PC to Windows 10. Once Windows 10 is installed Edge becomes the default browser. Edge cannot be uninstalled, but you can select another browser such as Firefox or Chrome as the default.
More On Edge’s Features
Since Edge has been re-written from scratch it no longer contains the IE code that made it so susceptible to malware. Edge doesn’t contain ActiveX controls, VBScript support or browser helper objects. In addition, it does not identify itself as Edge but mimics the most recent versions of Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.
The first time you use Edge you’ll see a tutorial that gives an explanation of its unique features. You will also notice that Edge has a flat design that appears clean and simple with very simple controls and obvious functions. Most of the tabs and controls are suitable for touchscreen use. In addition, the address bar won’t display when a using the search box.
Edge’s reading mode has similarities to reading mode in Safari and Firefox and it’s great when you’re reading ad-laden articles. There are three settings dark, medium, and light. Dark is helpful when reading at night and a when in reading mode you can zoom in or out to the size of your choice.
Users can only use reading mode for article pages. Viewing those types of pages without the interruption caused by auto-play video or pop-overs is helpful.
This feature is totally separate from reading mode. Essentially, it’s another way to bookmark pages you are likely to have a future interest in. It accompanies Favorites in a hub panel. You can add an item to your reading list in the same way as you would add a Favorite, using the Favorite star.
The majority of browsers give you the ability to look up text you have selected with a right click option. With Edge, when selected text is right clicked you will be confronted with an option to Ask Cortana. This will open a sidebar containing relevant web results, photos, and definitions. Cortana may even suggest an app, if available, for the site you are on.
Certainly Edge is in its infancy and there will be constant updates, new features, and capabilities added to it over time. However, for now Edge lacks the tools and extensions that are available on both Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft has said that extension features are in the works and that making a Chrome extension work in Edge will be trivial. Nevertheless, extensions aren’t currently supported so you can’t use them now, which could be problematic for many users.
Probably the primary goal of Edge creators was performance. On most commonly used browser benchmark tests, which includes Google’s own test that’s called Octane 2.0, Edge’s performance is far better than IE’s and even surpasses Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Edge is far more secure than its predecessor, IE. Similar to Chrome, it executes within a sand box, like all current apps in Windows Store. This isolates browser processes from the remainder of your system so that code within a site cannot adversely affect the remainder of your system. Edge also has the same SmartScreen filter that was resident on IE, in order to block sites that are suspicious or contains malware. Since Edge has done away with Browser Helper Objects, VBScript, and ActiveX controls, hackers have less of a chance of infiltrating your system.
Edge only comes in a 64-bit version for 64-bit machines, which includes the majority of PCs today. This will increase security because Edge has access to a far larger address space than 32 bit applications such as Firefox and Chrome. The larger address space allows for superior address space randomization which greatly enhances security.
In a lot of ways, Edge is a great new web browser. It is much faster than its predecessor and by many measures faster than Firefox and Chrome. It also has security features not available in its competitors. Nevertheless, it still is slightly behind in implementing the latest web standards and it lacks the extensibility of more mature browsers.
– James Conte, PPC Support