Full disclosure. I’m about to discuss Microsoft browsers and I’m a Microsoft MVP. More importantly, I’ve been using web browsers since before either Firefox or Chrome existed, and for ten years I haven’t used a Microsoft browser as my default. So, read on and let’s talk about browsers!
If I go back a few years, maybe a couple more, and another ten… my development set-up consisted of Microsoft Frontpage and Internet Explorer 5. At the time, this was a killer set up. The most common problem at the time was people trying to use new websites that used frames… but they didn’t work in Internet Explorer 4. Thank goodness we don’t have problems like that these days.
Anyway, Internet Explorer 6 landed it was like a new World-Wide-Web. We suddenly had asynchronous background requests for data, the most sophisticated rendering engine we had ever seen, and it basically felt like the future had arrived.
The reason everyone thinks IE6 was bad was because they were looking at it ten years too late to be impressed. They didn’t appreciate how it transformed The Web. At that’s kinda the problem. Internet Explorer as a browser seemed to get stuck in 2001 and over the course of eighteen years the brand not only lost that sheen of brilliance, it became actively hated. A sad end to what, in 2001, was the greatest browser in the world.
In acknowledgement of this fall from grace, Microsoft have re-launched Internet Explorer a couple of time, then launched its successor, Edge. Over the course of many attempts, they never seemed to land it. They had some great features throughout that flurry of reinventions. At one point we all gathered around the new version of Internet Explorer to test out its claims about having the fastest rendering available. We tested it against all the current browsers at the time and it was true… it was blazing fast. When we returned to our desks, though, we opened up Firefox and got on with our jobs.
This is the problem with browsers. They can’t win by pressing a single issue. Stickiness comes from many places. It needs to be convenient. Utilities like bookmarks, password store, and spell-checking go largely unnoticed… until you don’t have them. For me and my tech friends, the developer tools built into the browser need to reach practically IDE levels of functionality. It needs to render pages fast (and continue to render them fast despite all the really bad stuff people are doing to pages). It needs to provide maximal screen area and low friction. It’s really hard to do it right.
This is essentially why each Microsoft browser release has been set to my default for a week and then fallen out of favour.
Except for this developer-build of Microsoft Edge running Chromium.
It’s been a month now and I’m using all day long. At work and at home. It’s become my default, sync’d across devices, de-facto browser… even on my phone. I just like it. I can delve into the developer tools and pick apart web pages just like I can elsewhere. I can sync my bookmarks across devices. Every website I visit just works. It’s such a good browser, I don’t even know I’m using it.
What’s more, the default search engine is, of course, Bing. I’ve shown Bing off a lot because the image search tools can literally make jaws drop… but it has been a similar story as the browser. After the demo, you’d head back to your desk and use the same old search engine. For a whole month, though, I’ve been using Bing full time because I’m lazy and I couldn’t be bothered to change my settings. It works too.
So, as of June 2019, we actually have some fight back in the browser wars and there is finally a competitor that can shake up the search market.
It feels like 2001 all over again!