How Microsoft killing Edge could help kill native apps

Slack (Image credit: iMore)

Microsoft is going to ditch EdgeHTML, the rendering engine for its Edge browser, in favor of Google's open source Chromium browser (not to be confused with the productized Chrome browser). Windows Central broke the news almost a week ago and Microsoft has recently confirmed it.

Microsoft originally used Spyglass, then infamously Trident. Google originally used Apple's open source WebKit, based on KHTML, and then forked it into Blink and Chrome.

Mozilla (opens in new tab), the organization behind the Gecko engine and Firefox browser, wasn't happy about the reduction in competition and and consumer choice.

So, why is Microsoft doing it?

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John Gruber, writing for Daring Fireball:

I don't share the depth of their pessimism regarding native apps, but Electron is without question a scourge. I think the Mac will prove more resilient than Windows, because the Mac is the platform that attracts people who care. But I worry.


As un-Mac-like as Word 6 was, it was far more Mac-like then than Google Docs running inside a Chrome tab is today. Google Docs on Chrome is an un-Mac-like word processor running inside an ever-more-un-Mac-like web browser. What the Mac market flatly rejected as un-Mac-like in 1996 was better than what the Mac market tolerates, seemingly happily, today. Software no longer needs to be Mac-like to succeed on the Mac today. That's a tragedy.Even Apple, of all companies, is shipping Mac apps with glaring un-Mac-like problems. The "Marzipan" apps on MacOS 10.14 Mojave — News, Home, Stocks, Voice Memos — are dreadfully bad apps. They're functionally poor, and design-wise foreign-feeling. I honestly don't understand how Apple decided it was OK to ship these apps.

What strikes me is that, when you hear defenses for Electron apps, maybe even "Marzipan" apps, it's from program/product managers who value its efficiency and quantity. When you hear criticism, it's from the customers — and developers — forced to use it.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Are Marzipan apps really that bad? I've been using the Home app a ton and it's totally fine.
  • Right now they are but the technologies used to build those apps at the moment are alpha-level fit and finish, never-mind beta-level. To be fair to Apple, when they announced Marzipan they did say that it was a multi-year project so there's still a long ways to go. I could be wrong, but I think Apple's long-term (ie: 5 to 10 years) goal is to replace AppKit with Marzipan.
  • Microsoft is NOT "killing Edge". Where did you get that absurd idea? The Edge browser will continue. They are changing the rendering engine, because the one they are currently using sucks. The fear is that PWAs - assuming they ever take off - will not work correctly because no one will bother testing them on a browser with such low usage numbers. Edge is below even desktop Safari for user share. With Edge using the same engine as Chrome, it is pretty much guaranteed that PWAs will work. Microsoft needs all the developer support they can get. Opera recently changed to Chromium also, probably for similar reasons. Why waste time and money developing your own (problematic) code, when there is a perfectly good open source option available?
  • The title is either incorrectly worded, or incorrectly worded for the sake of being clickbait. You can see in the subtitle what they were really trying to say: "The end of EdgeHTML…" but of course that bit won't appear in the SEO results. Edge being below Safari is a no-brainer, Edge is only available for Windows 10 whilst Safari has been with macOS since Mac OS X Panther, there are people out there who use Snow Leopard and Safari, whilst the many Windows 7 users simply cannot use Edge. As a web developer, getting rid of EdgeHTML is great, but for consumers it means that Chromium is becoming a monopoly. We already have websites which only work properly in Chrome. There are upsides and downsides to this, but I'm hoping the upsides will outweigh the bad, it certainly does as a web developer myself, but as a web developer I also take the time to make sure my sites work correctly in Safari and Firefox too.