Today's State of Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge has been around since early 2015, but it’s never been really able to take off. It’s market share is currently at about 4%, or about three times less than the ones from Internet Explorer - which must be depressing for Microsoft. Also, many would argue that Edge doesn’t even cut it for non-power users. So after 3 years, is this still the case?

Features

Edge covers nearly all features that a modern browser should have. It supports the “new” JS and CSS treats, though some can still be a bit flanky, especially in the flexbox and grid department, but it’s far from an Internet Explorer - which makes it even harder to wrap my head around why they used such a similar logo. The dev tools are usable, if a bit slow, and feel mostly like redesigned (for better or for worse) and slightly cut down Chrome dev tools. You’ll have a hard time finding 3rd-party dev tools such as the ones for React or Vue though.

From an end-user’s perspective, there are neat things like saving tabs for later, handing off the current tab to another device or making a full screenshot of the website with the ability to draw and highlight things (which is especially awesome on a Surface product using the Surface pen). And while that’s all nice and stuff, all of those things can also be had in Chrome or Firefox - maybe not natively, but with the help of a handy extension.

Speaking of which, extensions on Edge suck, at least for now. There are just so few extensions available; even major ones are missing. A good thing though is that Edge - unlike Chrome and Firefox - is using native Windows notifications, which allows websites to feel a lot more like apps. Furthermore, Edge is a lot more pleasant on touch devices than it’s competitors - scrolling and zooming feels smoother and the UI is clearly much more optimized for fingers. Some may dislike this on their mouse-only desktops though.

Another nice little addition is that you can hide the labels of your bookmarks, revealing just the icon. You can also do this in other browsers, just by setting the name of the bookmark to empty, but I far prefer being able to just hide them, but keeping a recognizable name for the bookmark manager. One issue though is that Edge first of all does not automatically fetches the icons - so you’ll need to give each and every site a visit to load them, and even then it won’t display the icon! Turns out you’ll need to show and hide the label a couple of times to get the icon to be displayed, which is incredibly annoying (likely a bug and hopefully soon to be fixed). So unless you want to go through all that hassle, you will simply be greeted by a bar full of stars.

Performance

Both Chrome and Firefox run noticeably smoother than Edge. Compared to them, sites render slower and they feel a lot less snappy and responsive. Hover effects sometimes take their time to start playing, clicking on something doesn’t always gives an instant result, and animations are a complete nightmare. The battery usage is from my experience about on par with the other browsers, but your mileage may vary as discovered by Linus Tech Tips.

But there’s also a mobile version of Edge now!

I downloaded Edge on my Android phone alongside with the Microsoft Launcher - after all, I better want the full experience, right? Unsurprisingly, it’s just a skinned version of Chrome with the integrations for syncing and all that stuff. It’s not all bad though, as there’s an integrated ad blocker, which is nice to have, and it even supports Chrome Custom Tabs and the long-press the icon on the home screen thing to open a private tab, both things Mozilla has not managed to put in their mobile browser. I’d say the mobile variant of Edge is more competetive than the desktop version, even if it’s still in public beta.
But what about iOS? Well, before Apple allows the users to change the default browser (which is probably still a few more EU lawsuits away), then you can only use Edge when you manually want to visit a website anyways.

Privacy

Privacy is a whole other concern. Microsoft is known for putting all kinds of spying things in their software, and it’s no exception with Edge. All the settings and dials are somewhat unorganized and hidden at the bottom as “Advanced Settings” (changing your search engine is apparently an advanced task) to further hide those in the hope that inexperienced users will just keep the defaults - which they do. At the time of writing, Bing has a lot more users on desktop than on mobile, which is likely because of the preset Microsoft dials in - just to give an example. But then again, if you come from Chrome looking you’re probably not that interested in privacy.

Summarized

Edge is a decent browser, but you probably shouldn’t use it as the alternatives are simply better in almost every regard. Sure, there are unique selling points of Edge, but honestly: I don’t care, and if I would, I could simply add those with an add-on to Firefox, which is my browser of choice. So would I recommend it? It’s good for downloading another browser, but for anything else, you’re just better off using something else. On Android, it might be a bit of a different story: if they get their act together, it could become a good alternative.