Most of the software that’s included with Windows 10 is nothing special, but there’s one bright spot: Microsoft Edge, the new web browser that finally replaces the much-maligned Internet Explorer.
Edge comes at a crucial time for Microsoft: Internet Explorer has less than 20% share of the browser market, with 1% of the total mobile market, according to the Adobe Digital Index. Meanwhile, Google Chrome leads with 42% of desktop market share, and Apple’s Safari holds 58% of the mobile browser market, per the same report.
The good news is that Microsoft Edge is a solid product, with some cool features. The bad news is that there’s not enough there to sway committed fans of Chrome, Firefox, or the other major web browsers.
Gotta go fast
The best part of Edge is its speed and performance. Internet Explorer is notorious in developer circles for its long-time refusal to adopt industry browser standards. Microsoft got better about standards in recent years, but a lot of developers had already abandoned it along the way.
That meant a lot of modern web apps and sites broke or looked weird in Microsoft’s browser.
But Edge is quick, snappy, and works with almost everything. It’s surpassing Google Chrome in a lot of benchmark tests, and supports all the same standards. Better still, I’m hearing anecdotal reports that it’s way easier on your computer, taking up less memory and giving a laptop longer battery life.
Another cool thing is its integration with Windows 10’s Cortana digital assistant. If you find anything on the web that you’re unsure about, just right click and select “Ask Cortana.” A little sliding drawer appears on the side of the screen with information (news, definitions, headlines) about whatever you selected, without taking you away from the website.
For instance, Microsoft says that Cortana is good enough at scanning the context of a webpage to tell whether “tiger” is referring to Tiger Woods or an actual, you know, tiger, just based on the site you’re reading. In practice, this is a little hit-or-miss, but Microsoft is working on it.
Another thing Cortana does is helpfully pop up into the address bar whenever you’re looking at a restaurant’s website. Click on Cortana, and up comes that same drawer, with information like Yelp reviews, the place’s hours, and a menu, if it has one.
It’s all in the name of giving extra context without forcing you to tab away or open a different app.
The final major feature of Edge is its annotation feature, where you can draw directly on a website with your mouse or finger and save it as a screenshot or shuttle it up to Microsoft’s OneNote notekeeping service. It’s a little bit like Evernote’s Skitch app, but built straight into the browser.
It’s a neat idea, but it’s hard to think of a time when this would be actually be useful in real life. I tested it out a few times, satisfied myself that it works, and forgot it existed.
Edge is still new, and there are lots of little kinks to work out.
Ultimately, it was one of those kinks that had me scrambling to download Chrome on Windows 10: Writing articles (like this one) in the browser became incredibly hard to do. I’d write a sentence and wait 20 seconds for it to actually appear on the screen.
Obviously, not everybody is using Business Insider’s web software to get stuff done. But again anecdotally, little hiccups and flaws like this one are popping up all over the place. And if Microsoft wants people to use Edge for the modern web, it will have to tune it up, and fast.
Oh, and Microsoft Edge doesn’t support browser extensions just yet. Most mainstream users probably won’t care, but power users should take note.
Ultimately, Microsoft Edge works, and works well, as a solid web browser. And since it comes with Windows 10, it will get a lot of immediate interest right out of the gate. It’s definitely better than Internet Explorer.
But for dedicated Chrome and Firefox fans, there’s not enough there to warrant a switch just yet.
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