Microsoft Edge: Why Web Developers Don’t Hate the New Browser

Internet Explorer (IE), the browser that has been built into the Windows operating system since Microsoft finally decided the Web wasn’t just a fad, has since its earliest versions been the browser users love to hate. It always lagged behind the other browsers (first Netscape, and later Firefox and Chrome) in features and security, and it often suffered from slow performance.

And that was just the experience of the end users. The web development community hated IE even more, if such a thing is possible. Microsoft had a reputation for not following the HTML and CSS rendering standards that the other browsers observed, so websites that looked fabulous on Firefox or Chrome would look terrible in IE.

Developers often would have to write two sets of code: One for IE and one for everything else. To make matters worse, Microsoft would tweak things in the rendering engine between versions, so code written for IE 10 would have to be rewritten for IE 11. It was truly a web developer’s nightmare.

Developers often would have to write two sets of code: One for IE and one for everything else.

Along Comes Edge

So when Windows 10 was released, with the new Edge browser, the development community was understandably skeptical. Would the new browser live up to the hype?

Opinions are mixed, but by and large the web development community doesn’t hate Microsoft Edge.

  • Although some observers note that Edge’s rendering engine is not remarkably different from IE’s, it does seem to follow established standards more consistently. This addresses developers’ primary complaint, and if Microsoft succeeds in its aggressive push to get users to migrate to Windows 10, hopefully separate code sets for different browsers will be a thing of the past. (However, Edge’s HTML 5 compatibility, while better than IE 11’s, still lags compared to other popular browsers.)
  • Edge’s performance is a substantial improvement over IE 11, and is now on par with other browsers in several performance benchmarks. A smaller memory footprint and more efficient rendering have helped immensely.
  • On the user side, Microsoft Edge offers a couple of innovative features that, so far, other browsers are not providing. One is Reading View, which strips away web page clutter, leaving only the content you actually want. The other is the ability to add notes, highlights, and other annotations to web pages, and to save and share these notes with others.
  • For developers, Edge adds new development tools. “New” here means “weren’t in IE”—these are tools, such as a mobile emulation tool and the Console, that have been available with other browsers for several versions. These tools are better late than never, but they aren’t particularly innovative.
  • In a curious twist, Microsoft Edge was released without extensions. Microsoft expects to add extensions in the future, but has not established a timetable for doing so.

The Verdict

Overall, the development community is pleased with the progress Microsoft has made with Edge. The eventual addition of extensions should bring more developers to this way of thinking. And if Microsoft can bring the browser’s HTML 5 compatibility up to that of the competition, they will finally have a top-notch browser that users and developers will really enjoy.