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Microsoft Edge Browser To Get New Rendering Engine but EdgeHTML Continues

Microsoft isn't exactly killing off its EdgeHTML rendering engine, even after declaring plans to use Chromium open source technologies in its Edge browser.

It might be expected that Microsoft would use the Blink rendering engine favored by the Chromium Project in its new Chromium-based Edge browser, and perhaps that's still the case. However, Kyle Pflug, a senior program manager on the Microsoft Edge team (who uses the "@kylealden" Twitter handle), offered a more nuanced explanation in this Reddit forum post.

Pflug indicated in the threads of that post that Microsoft will have "a new rendering engine" in Edge, which he didn't name. The new rendering engine will be able to use WebView, a Google Android technology for porting Web site content into applications.

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) housed in the Windows Store "will continue to use EdgeHTML/Chakra without interruption," Pflug indicated. In addition, Microsoft's new Edge browser will support the "extensions" (applets that run on top of the browser) that were built for the Google Chrome browser.

Here are Pflug's clarifications from the Reddit forum post:

  • Existing UWP apps (including PWAs in the Store) will continue to use EdgeHTML/Chakra without interruption. We don't plan to shim under those with a different engine. We do expect to offer a new WebView that apps can choose to use based on the new rendering engine.
  • We expect to provide support for PWAs to be installed directly from the browser (much like with Chrome) in addition to the current Store approach. We're not ready to go into all the details yet but PWAs behaving like native apps is still an important principle for us so we'll be looking into the right system integrations to get that right.
  • It's our intention to support existing Chrome extensions.

The notion that the ChakraCore JavaScript rendering engine in Edge would survive the move to Chromium had been earlier expressed by Pflug in this Windows blog post. Update 12/12: The ChakraCore team explained last week in a separate post that ChakraCore won't be in the new Edge browser. The new browser instead will use the Chromium project's V8 engine. However, ChakraCore will survive to be used in "various projects outside the browser."

The idea that PWAs will be installable from the browser appears to be a new twist. In February, Microsoft had taken great pains to push vendor-created PWAs into the Microsoft Store. Microsoft took that action even though the Edge browser wasn't expected to have support for the requisite Web technologies needed to run PWAs until sometime in 2019.

Meanwhile, Chris Beard, CEO of the Mozilla Corp. overseeing the Firefox browser, lamented Microsoft's shift to the Chromium platform, which had been started by Google.

"Microsoft’s decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us," Beard wrote in a Thursday Mozilla blog post titled, "Goodbye, EdgeHTML." While he understood the business reasons for the switch, Beard said that "Google's dominance across search, advertising, smartphones, and data capture creates a vastly tilted playing field that works against the rest of us."

Microsoft's decision could make things tougher for Firefox, which now stands alone among browsers in using the Gecko rendering engine, rather than Blink.

"If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium," Beard wrote. "That's what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000s before Firefox was released. And it could happen again."

Opera Software told Venturebeat.com that Microsoft's switch to Chromium was a positive move for the Web. It was also what Opera Software had done back in 2012 for its own Opera browser. Google told The Verge last week that it will be welcoming Microsoft's future contributions to the Chromium project.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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