A first look at Microsoft’s new Chromium-powered Edge browser


Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Microsoft is rebuilding its Edge browser on Chromium. The software maker has been testing versions of this browser internally at Microsoft, and now The Verge has secured an exclusive first look at the early work thanks to a source who wishes to remain anonymous. While the previously leaked screenshots made Edge look very similar to Chrome, Microsoft is adding its own touches and animations to make it look and feel like a Windows browser.

When you first install the Chromium version of Edge, Microsoft will prompt you to import favorites, passwords, and browsing history from Chrome or Edge (depending on your default). The setup screen also prompts you to pick a style for the default tab page before you start browsing.

Most of the user interface of the browser is a mix of Chrome and Edge, and Microsoft has clearly tried to add its own little touches here and there. There’s a read aloud accessibility option, and it simply reads the page out loud like it does in existing versions of Edge. Some features that you’d expect from Edge are missing, though. Microsoft hasn’t implemented a dark mode just yet, the set aside tabs feature isn’t available, and write on the web with a stylus is missing.

Microsoft also has support for extensions, and a dedicated extensions page for ones that it has approved. You’ll also be able to install Chrome extensions from Google’s online store, just by flipping a switch in the extensions settings. We’ve tried a number of extensions like 1Password and Ghostery, and they work just like you’d expect them to in Chrome.

Microsoft is offering up sync support for extensions in the settings interface for this new version of Edge, but it doesn’t look like it will be available straight away. The page notes that “more of the features listed above will become available for sync in the coming months.” You can only currently sync favorites, but not settings, history, extensions, open tabs, passwords, and autofill information.

For an early version of Edge built on Chromium, Microsoft’s new browser feels very polished. It’s also very fast to launch and browse around with. If Microsoft can keep up this good work and keep Edge optimized in the future, I can’t see a reason to need to use Chrome on Windows anymore. I would never have recommended Edge before as it was often slow, clunky, and didn’t always work with websites properly. This new Edge feels entirely different, thanks to its Chromium backend.

It’s not yet clear when Microsoft will make this new version of Edge available publicly, but given the most recent internal builds are stable and work well, it’s likely to arrive very soon. We’ll keep you updated on exactly when Microsoft plans to start beta testing its Chromium-powered Edge browser.