Wednesday, Microsoft is releasing a stable beta of the new Chromium-based version of Edge, its first-party browser intended to rival Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Developer and Canary builds of the browser have been available for months, but we’re told this beta is a more a polished version intended for wider release.
I spoke with Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, a VP in Microsoft’s Experience and Devices division, ahead of the beta launch, and he expressed his hope that people would properly test the new beta ahead of its final release.
The latest beta will be available for everything Windows 7 and up, including Windows 10. A Mac version, based on the same underlying code, will launch simultaneously.
I’ve used the developer build of the Mac version off an on for months and have been impressed with its stability — especially compared to some of the other betas I’ve loaded up on my devices lately. (I would not recommend the iPadOS beta in its current state. Good grief.) All new versions of Edge use the same Blink and V8 engines incorporated by Google Chrome and are based on the same Chromium codebase.
To that end, it doesn’t feel super different from Chrome, my usual browser. Opening twenty tabs will still eat up copious memory:
You can also use all the extensions already offered for Chrome browsers, or you can download new Edge specific ones from the Microsoft store.
As far as differences go, the most obvious one will be the UI. If you like the UI design Microsoft has been incorporating into Windows 10, you’ll love Edge regardless of what platform it’s on. Menus are well labelled and easy to read, and tabs have nice sharp edges that are a welcome contrast from Chrome’s gentle curves.
Edge also doesn’t use your Google account login. Instead, you can log in via your Microsoft login that you probably created for your Xbox or Windows device. You can also log in with an Azure Active Directory ID. For people at companies heavily reliant on Microsoft services, this is the ID you regularly use to check your mail or sign in to Office.
I’m told multi-user sign-in will be supported. So you can have one instance of the browser logged into your work ID and another logged into your personal one. There are no plans to allow logins from non-Microsoft accounts, so you’ll have to import your passwords and bookmarks from Chrome.
It seems clear there was a lot of enthusiasm for making Edge the defacto browser at an enterprise level, evidenced by support for old Internet Explorer processes. While IE may be dead, and we’re all better for it, many legacy services for large companies continue to rely on it. So provided the user is on a Windows device, they’ll be able to open and engage with old IE pages. (IE processes are not supported on the Mac version of Edge.)
If you’re ready to try it out yourself, you can download Edge starting right now. But remember to report any bugs or errors you have. This is still technically a beta, and kicking the tires could mean getting your foot stuck.