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Google’s Chrome browser will get better because of Microsoft

Google’s Chrome browser will get better because of Microsoft


Microsoft now has a reason to make Chrome run better on Windows

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Stock imagery of the Chrome logo.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft has always used pop-ups, notifications, and warning signs to sway people away from installing Chrome on Windows 10. The software maker even performed battery tests to show how bad Chrome is for your laptop’s battery life. With the news that Microsoft is moving to the Chromium rendering engine for Edge, all of these comparisons and notifications are about to become irrelevant. Microsoft now has a reason to make Chrome run better on Windows.

“We will offer our Windows platform expertise to improve the experience of all Chromium-based browsers on Windows,” reads a letter from Microsoft to the Chromium open-source community. “We recognize that making the web better on Windows is good for our customers, partners and our business – and we intend to actively contribute to that end. We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Chromium community in the areas of battery life, touch, accessibility, security, and other areas of mutual interest.”

Microsoft is sharing its work with Chromium

Microsoft has naturally held back most of the secret sauce of its Edge rendering engine in order to maintain a browser advantage on Windows. Microsoft has had the benefit of knowing the underlying code of Windows to improve many aspects of Edge behind the scenes, including hardware acceleration, touch and scrolling support, accessibility improvements, and platform support for ARM-based processors.

Now that Microsoft is pledging to share this with the Chromium project, Chrome as a browser will improve on Windows. While Microsoft won’t be open sourcing Windows and sharing its code freely, any changes it commits to the Chromium rendering engine to benefit Edge will now benefit Chrome as well. Microsoft’s seemingly strong commitment to Chromium is an interesting twist in the browser wars.

“We expect our engineers to learn and over time become experts in the Chromium project and grow into active and responsible members of the community,” says the Microsoft letter to the open-source community. “We are eager to increase our contributions to the Chromium project and will continue to maintain any contributions we make.”

If Microsoft is going to make Chrome better on Windows, then why would people even want to use Edge now? That’s a question that Microsoft doesn’t have all the answers for right now. “We recognize the value of competition and intend to bring-to-life our best vision for a Microsoft Edge browser that builds on Chromium open source via differentiated user experience features and connected services.” That certainly sounds like Microsoft will continue building features on top of Edge that aren’t available natively in Chrome, including services like Bing and Cortana.

Google has often been very slow to adopt Windows changes in the past. High-resolution screens were growing in popularity years ago, and Chrome didn’t support high DPI for months. Likewise, Microsoft made some great improvements to Windows trackpad support and touchscreens, but Chrome took far too long to support those changes. Now that Microsoft is joining the Chromium project, future hardware changes will be properly supported inside Edge and Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers. That’s certainly a good thing for anyone running Windows.