Microsoft to Move to a Single Edge codebase

Posted on March 5, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Microsoft Edge, Mobile with 18 Comments

One of the more interesting tidbits that came out of Ignite this week is that Microsoft is moving the desktop and mobile versions of Edge to a single codebase.

News of this change comes via Reddit, but I found out about this through Neowin.

In short, during the Microsoft Edge | Mobile Productivity in the Enterprise session at Ignite this week, Edge senior program manager Darryl Brown said that Microsoft was moving its browser to a common code base across desktop—Windows, Mac, and Linux—and mobile (Android and iOS). Of course, because of the limitations imposed by Apple, the iOS version of Edge will need to use Apple’s WebKit-based render. But otherwise, the codebases will be the same.

The reasons for this change are obvious enough, but the biggest is just related to efficiency. Today, Microsoft has to develop common new features across the browser three times—once for desktop, once for Android, and once for iOS—which makes it challenging to rollout those new features simultaneously.

But it’s worth pointing out that Edge mobile is still kind of its own thing and that that codebase—or those codebases, I guess—predates the Chromium-based Edge on desktop. A refresh is definitely in order, and this change will help Microsoft innovate more—and more quickly—on mobile.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Microsoft to Move to a Single Edge codebase”

  1. Avatar

    gregsedwards

    What about Edge on Xbox? I'm guessing it still uses the "legacy" Edge codebase (or some variation of it). Any idea if/when they're going to switch that over to Chromium Edge, too?

  2. Avatar

    naveen

    Come on Paul. This has happened before. Think about the Windows Mobile to Windows Phone / 7 transition. We were told this was akin to changing the engine of a car while its running. And we all know how that turned out. I mean as a software developer I love this kind of stuff but to the user its nilch. They dont care if you are running one codebase or a 10. Deliver the features yesterday.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Well, not exactly. In this case there are three codebases, one that is widely used (desktop) and two (mobile) that are not. They're really just moving the mobile apps to the singular codebase. This won't be a seismic shift for users. But when it happens, we'll get feature updates more quickly.
  3. Avatar

    lindhartsen

    Will be interested to see if this gets the iPad version to better resemble it's iPhone equivalent. While the phone app feels more current with their design direction, the iPad one feels very much like Edge Legacy somehow.

  4. Avatar

    Taylor Chirillo

    Read Paul's article about Flutter 2 and then this makes a lot of sense. I'm not saying Edge will use Flutter but it's the same concept.

  5. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Just as a point of comparison, does anyone know how many codebases Google maintains for Chrome?

    I also have to wonder how much OS-specific code needs to remain for Windows, macOS and Linux.

  6. Avatar

    b6gd

    Edge is my default browser on Windows and MacOS. I prefer Safari on the Mac but I have to work on Windows from time to time so having everything in sync is worth it.


    I tried Edge on iOS but Safari is just so much better and I don’t really care about sync on iOS.

  7. Avatar

    dftf

    From the Reddit post you linked to:


    "Talk about performance, I feel like Edge on Android is one of the worst performing Chromium browsers"


    Maybe of the Chromium ones it may well be, but for me the overall slowest browser has to be Firefox. Sometimes you enter a URL and tap "Go", or tap a link and wonder "I did click it, didn't I?" before it finally does something -- sometimes it can be fast. Very inconsistent. And I still get the odd website that decides, in Firefox, it will only display the desktop version of the site, as the web-devs have clearly just assumed "it's Firefox, so must be a desktop user".


    "The Edge UI doesn't feel polished enough either"


    Firefox, Brave, Opera and Vivaldi all look fine to me, on Android. Edge just looks a mess. Can't stand the layout of the "new tab page", and I'd prefer to have the "Home" button on the toolbar, not "Share". I'd also rather just have a "..." menu which opens a full-screen panel list of settings, not the homescreen-style-grid they use now.


    One thing I will note myself though -- it's odd how the Android version of Edge has "Adblock Plus" built-in (inside the "Content blockers" screen), yet desktop Edge just has their own "Tracking prevention" feature. Odd.

    • Avatar

      codymesh

      In reply to dftf:

      i've found Edge Mobile to be pretty poor in terms of performance as well. It's my number 1 complaint about it, actually.


      As for the UI...I actually like Edge's mobile UI.


      But by far the best mobile browser UI has to be Firefox. Really minimal and uncluttered, but somehow also powerful. And it's always smooth.

    • Avatar

      omen_20

      In reply to dftf:

      Firefox is my preferred browser on Android. It has the slimmest GUI and the best read mode. The speed has caught up over the past months.


      Vivaldi is my preferred desktop browser due to the customization. I use it and Edge on the work computer. Edge is trying to copy the best features for the masses but I will probably always use both. I do have a personal profile setup in Edge for PWAs like YouTube and YouTube Music. But all of my personal browsing is done in Vivaldi.


      I check Edge on Android after every update. The UI is still the most bloated of mobile browsers. Edges biggest feature is also missing: natural language for Read Aloud. If they can slim the UI, bring in customization for reading mode (font, size, and color), and add the natural language for Read Aloud, then Edge might replace Firefox for me on my phone.

    • Avatar

      F4IL

      In reply to dftf:

      As a firefox user I will have to agree. The transition from fennec to fenix has generally been received as a regression both in terms of performance and features—the feature-set has been consistently expanding to include addons and other privacy focused items. For example, while using ungoogled-chromium with ublock origin (which is a hack) is quite performant and moderately resource intensive, fenix (with the same setup) is very resource intensive and slow.

      • Avatar

        ruivo

        In reply to F4IL:

        The regressions on Fenix were so bad that it made me abandon Firefox for Good both on mobile and on desktop. Granted, desktop wasn't affected, but with Edge working well enough on mobile, and just sitting there in Windows, it was not that hard to change.

        Who knew that I would switch back to Microsoft in a new browser war...

    • Avatar

      Singingwolf

      In reply to dftf:

      Didn't know about adblock plus in there. Thank you. This should help my experience from now on!

  8. Avatar

    arknu

    Hopefully that means they will finally use an up-to-date version of Chromium on Android. Edge on Android is still Chromium 77. I refuse to use Edge on Android until it uses the same Chromium version as Chrome on Android does, it is now over 10 versions behind, which is just embarrassing...

  9. Avatar

    jdawgnoonan

    So other than the window borders, bookmark management, and other tools, is any of the rest of the Edge on iOS different from Safari? As you say, the rendering engine is Apple's Web-kit rendering engine, but really isn't that the whole meat of the browser other than the window dressing (which I know that there is a lot of).

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