Mozilla warns of ceding too much control to Google with Edge's move to Chromium

Microsoft Edge logo on Start menu
Microsoft Edge logo on Start menu (Image credit: Windows Central)

No matter your position on Microsoft's announcement this week that it is moving its Edge browser to the Chromium engine in 2019, one thing's for sure: it has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. But outside of feedback on both sides of the issue from fans and developers, industry giants are speaking out as well.

Following Microsoft's announcement yesterday, Mozilla penned a farewell post to EdgeHTML, largely lamenting the state of the browser market, Chromium's continued dominance, and what it could mean for the web as a whole.

"Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet," Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla, writes. "By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google."

As Beard notes, the engines that power browsers are largely invisible to their users, but they hold great sway over what's possible online and what web developers prioritize. From Beard:

They determine core capabilities such as which content we as consumers can see, how secure we are when we watch content, and how much control we have over what websites and services can do to us. Microsoft's decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us.From a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible.

Ultimately, with only Firefox Gecko Quantum and Chromium as the two remaining browser engines from major industry players, Mozilla worries about the impact on competition and choice, harkening back to Microsoft's long-gone monopoly with Internet Explorer.

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. That's what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000s before Firefox was released. And it could happen again.

Microsoft Edge, Chromium, and Blink FAQ: Everything you need to know

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

53 Comments
  • If Chromium is open source, what does that have to do with Google?? Even if it has contributed much to it before.
    Are you telling me that Microsoft engineers are fooled by it being open source and Google actually controls it??
  • My thinking is along the same lines. What is stopping MS from advancing the Chromium engine? It is open source after all. If anything, perhaps the engine will be less influenced by Google going forward....
  • I also don't understand the controversy. Microsoft has tried developing their own solutions, but developers are not implementing them on their sites -- ultimately the people getting hurt by this are the users who keep getting inconsistent experiences and require multiple browsers depending on what content they want to view.
    Personally I don't care how many enginges exist in the world, as long as they allow the web to work the same way regardless of operating system, device or browser. Nothing more infuriating that trying to complete a form you spent 5 minutes completing to find out there is an incompatible script error that doesn't let you submit. Very humbling move in their part if you ask me, especially after the backlash they keep getting from moving from IE to Edge and starting over.
  • Yeah, wondering if the wording is just a bit poor. It's not that Microsoft is giving control to Google, it's more that Microsoft is giving more market share to that rendering engine (which arguably can't be that much... How much did EdgeHTML really have?) The point though is that if there's only two major rendering engines out there and one has significantly more market share, then devs can ignore the lesser of the two. You could argue that this is fine because if anything, it would mean more things would "just work" since devs only need to really optimize for one platform, but then I guess the flipside argument is that you lose innovation from competition.
  • It has 5%, and that's still a lot of people if you ask me... And Mozilla is right this time.
  • Google is the owner of chromium. Whether it’s open source or not, google has the ultimate control over the latest functions that get merged into the repository. While anyone can contribute, it’s up to google to approve.
  • And it's also up to Microsoft to take the "Open Source" code and use it in any way they want.
  • "Open Source" is far from the same as "do what you want".
  • The problem with that is at the end of the Day google has the final say if they want to merge updates upstream or not and if it's in line with their direction for the browser. At that point the only solution way out of it is for MS to create a hard fork in the same vein Google forked Webkit and diverged from there. In the end MS would be back to square one with them having to maintain that fork themselves if their direction doesn't align with Google's. The good thing about Open source is that you can fork code, but that isn't a panacea for everything as the moment you fork and diverge it'll be harder and harder to merge updates from the main repo as both your fork and the main codebase moves with differing priorities which at the end you'll end up making another "Blink" situation where Apple and Google's direction differed.
  • like Xaxxus said.
    Google gets to decide what to merged into the repo, and Google can close the project at anytime I think. > take the "Open Source" code and use it in any way they want.
    Sure, you can do that, but if your codes is not in the repo, every time you pull the new codes... you need to put all your engine mods back in and do TONS of QAs.
    And one day, your mods might become incompatible. Same as building a game using 3red party game engine like Unity or Unreal.
    Also, the same situation to those 3rd party Android phones.
  • Well they could end up with their own project on gihub forked from the google repo, but being different as hell (like projects that die but someone else is now maintaining them) and just stick with the name because they forked it from there xD. It could be the Chromium war but both sides could still get what the other side did an that makes it even more weird but again its an engine the end product can be different.
  • Nope. A consortium of companies "own" chromium. Google is the owner of Chrome. These are two different things.
  • On one hand a as a web developer I'm glad, but on the other hand this is bad for the overall web in the long run. This article from a Google browser dev themselves posted in the past describes this perfectly https://css-tricks.com/the-ecological-impact-of-browser-diversity/. At the end of the day Google has the final say for the direction and philosophy of the repo. If MS's direction and philosophy is indeed different then they'd end up making a hard fork of chromium that MS themselves have to maintain which is back to square one with them having to maintain it themselves like EdgeHTML since overtime they'll have a harder time pulling down changes from upstream (The main repo) if their codebase becomes different due to their priorities. Like gene diversity which is a big reason why we don't all die when a disease emerges, engine diversity as well is very important since they'll have differing ways of doing things which makes it harder for Zero-day exploits (Which does happen) to have an even bigger target surface area. Now instead they'll only have to target one engine for flaws (Chromium) than try to make their exploit as generic as possible to affect multiple engines. You can see this in the past few articles wherein a Zero-day exploit was found on chromium yet didn't work on Firefox and Edge, this will make it even easier for exploits now to do more damage since the engine is now using one gene (Blink + V8).
  • I agree. I am very disappointed that MS is ceding to Google on the browser. I think we need MORE non-Google browsers, not less. Edge isn't perfect, but it's getting better all the time. The excuse of "we need to do this to separate it from the OS" is utter bull. It's valuable to separate it, but doesn't demand a rewrite. There are MANY Windows component apps that are in the store.
  • If chromium is an open source software, that enyone can have. How is google grains more control over the internet?
    The way i see it is more like Mozzila loses even more control.
    Mozzila: Why did you choose chromiume and not Servo.
  • Because in the end Google will get more influence over others, on top of what it already has. Which is frankly a bit scary since they literally need to sell huge piles of data of users/people to keep making profit like they currently do(~85% of their profit).
  • Google does not sell any user data, it makes no sense for them to do so. They sell a service to advertisers, that is the promise of maximum reach and efficiency for your ads.
  • They are the same sides of the coin!
  • No it isn't. Two very different things. Selling data and selling ads are very different. No one gets access to your data when Google sells ads, just like no one gets your data when Microsoft sells ads.
  • He's 100% right. The loss here is diversity.
    The same loss on diversity and competition we got when they killed Windows Mobile.
    Monopolies are not good. Definitely they're not better just because it's not Microsoft who's doing them. This whole Edge going Chromium is nothing but bad news for everybody.
  • I don't look at it as a loss of diversity. The fact is Edge wasn't gaining any meaningful traction so all that "diversity" thinking was going to waste. Now they can focus on pushing their ideas forward using a web engine which has more traction and is widely adopted. I think this will be a win for them and a win for consumers.
  • New "MSIE 6" on horizon? This time not as a single browser, but as a whole family of browsers with very similar rendering features with limited space of innovation because of Google Search rules ...
  • Hang on... The other day, Daniel and Zac were ridiculing posters for suggesting Chromium had anything to do with Google? Can you make up your mind please?!?
  • Mozilla feels the power of being the cool outsider for a change 😂 Ego
  • Got to agree with Mozilla here, in the end Google is the owner of chromium. You never now if in the future others can still prevent Google from taking advantage of this monopoly. And we all know here how Google effectively dealt one of the killing blows to Windows Phone. :o. Guess we will see what happens, whatever the case Firefox deserves more users (which would be good for the privacy of many people).
  • Firstly, to state that Google has nothing to do with Chromium is ludicrous. They have been contributing to it's development for years and years.
    Secondly, what's really happening here is MS has tried to become Google under the current leadership and really failed. I'm not talking stock market value and such (which believe it or not, is not a sign of long term success) but innovation and vision. Which MS has none. You can disagree with that. But long term, I think I'm right. Bing will be the next thing to go. Followed by other services that could have been innovative and successful if implemented properly, but were not.
    Lastly, with all the mistakes MS has made with software this last few years, we'll all be asking ourselves what it is that they actually do successfully. It isn't what Bill Gates once said was writing software. That was the case when Bill made the statement, but is not the case today.
    The hope would be that someday Google will produce a viable pc operating system that works well and spy's less. Could happen. But don't hold your breath. MS has become lazy, less innovative and competitive under it's current leadership. That my friends is just a fact no matter how you try to spin things.
  • This is the final push I needed to create an a Mozilla account and make a permanent switch to Firefox. I have been holding out and sticking with Edge as my primary browser with Firefox as secondary but this combined with the bookmark sync issues, the inability to easily manage bookmarks as well as my desire to not use a Chrome based browser, will finally get me to make the move.
  • You sound like an angry customer storming out in a huff and saying something like "I'm gonna tell all my friends..." As for me... I'm definitely sticking with Edge. It has all the features I love today, and will continue to have them... regardless of the underlying rendering engine... Favorites synced via my Microsoft Account... Add notes... Reading view... Reading List... Books (with Read Aloud)... Set tabs aside (thought it was useless at first, but I've grown to love it)… defaults to Bing search... I know you're upset... but take a deep breath and... calm down... Edge will have all the features we know and love... the only change is the rendering engine. Changing that to be in compliance with standards that web devs are actually writing their apps for is a practical, humble, and genius idea.
  • Umm, I'm not angry and I'm plenty calm. Edge favorite syncing does not work for me at all and hasn't for over 2 years on older devices or my new devices. It continually creates multiples of every favorite and folder on some devices while randomly ceasing to sync on others. I also don't like the fact that there is no easy, sensible way to manage favorites like there was in IE and there is in other current browsers. In addition, it seems to have a memory dump problem on 2 of my devices which forces me to have to go in and force stop it or reboot entirely after a day or 2. There are a few other small issues too. I'm not angry or lacking calm. I am someone who despite all of the above, has continued to use it all this time. I simply feel that since they are making this move now, it's a good time for me to make a move I have been considering anyway. See the problem is that the features we all know and love don't work well enough for me. Not you..me. You are the one who seems to be overreacting to someone else choosing to use something other than what you want them to use. You are the 1 who seems to be all bent out of shape about my choice. The only part I'm bothered by at all is that you act like I need to calm down or validate to you why I want to make a switch to something else. So relax, calm down and take a breath. It will be OK whether I switch to Firefox or not.
  • @Awhispersecho, EdgeManage is a fantastic tool for managing your Edge Favorites. Better than anything we had for IE -- it will even go out and pull down Favicons for all of them. It also provides a separate sync option (EdgeSync) for those of us who can't use Microsoft sync, because we use Edge on Domain-based PC's (but could also be a solution to your problems). Unfortunately, it's not in the Store, and is only available as a traditional downloadable app at emmet-gray.com. For anyone who uses Favorites in Edge, it's a must.
  • That's bcoz some sold out pawns inside ms are serving its grandmasters google etc. Google needs more control over you all and you.
  • The last quoted paragraph says it all, the rest can be ignored. The real problem with Chromium is that it's on track to becoming the new IE6. Who would bother following standards, when the vast majority of people are using one browser (engine)? That's why things like browser detection - something that should've died out years ago - still exist on modern websites. A lot of sites already seem to design and test exclusively on Chrome, and some go as far as to disable their site altogether if you're not using Chrome. If they followed established standards, none of that would be necessary. If there's no other popular browser (engines), this would only get more widespread. It significantly hurts any hope for competition in the browser market (as many sites won't be designed or tested outside of Chromium-based browsers), encourages bad design, and kills innovation (who will advocate for standards, when no one needs them?).
  • It is really bad/sad that 99% of human beings either don't know or don't care about anything other than the browser or os just working. Privacy barely exist now and its only gonna get worse! #clueless
  • Everyone needs to calm down over this non-story. First, Edge has 4% - and dropping - of worldwide desktop browser share. 4%. That is less than Safari on desktop. Yes, the Mac browser has more users than Edge. So chromium picking up Edge's minuscule share is not going to change the world. If Edge had 25% share, then this story might be important. Second, Mozilla should be worried about making Firefox better. Not what the Edges and Operas of the world are doing. Third, to think that web sites are going to cater to Chrome is absurd. For example, in the U.S., when looking at ALL computer users - desktop, phone and tablet - Chrome leads Safari by 49% to 32%. When looking at mobile only, the numbers are vastly different. Safari leads Chrome 59% to 34%. Worldwide, the mobile numbers are Chrome 53%, Safari 22%. IOW, Chrome has PLENTY of competition from Safari. No one is going to ignore iPhone/iPad users. I realize this story generates lots of comments, and that is why there are so many stories about Edge in the last few days. But this change is really not going to amount to anything. Lighten up, Francis.
  • You do realise Safari is primarily available on ios and macs. Sure, you could download on Windows but don't expect frequent updates.
  • I think his point is from a development perspective -- developers who want most users to be able to access their sites still have an incentive to code to standards and not use Chromium-only non-standard coding. Of course, by that same logic, Mozilla is also correct -- the more concentrated things get, the greater the appeal and risk that any given development team will choose to cut costs by only coding for one rendering engine.
  • I feel what a lot of people are missing regarding the chromium adoption is that chromium is open source. Microsoft can add to its code, modify it, and even completely overhaul it. They don’t have to stick to google’s Standards!
  • But need Google's approval to merge your mods/codes into the repo.
    And modding the engine without pushing your code to the repo is suicidal, you will have hard time keeping up the updates. Same as coding a game with 3rd party game engine, or, the situation of 3rd party Android phones.
  • But than what's the point of switching from EdgeHTML?
  • Less work = less resources required = profits goes up as expenses decrease thus stock goes up. As I said this poor fiscal policy as constricts the companies ability to grow. Microsoft is on the path of digging their own hole now. They could have used Edgehtml in PWAs too... given the fact there is no dedicated QA team at Microsoft. When it comes to testing Edge on any future device it would be harder to patch and troubleshoot.
  • totally agree, google is slowly killing web standard, with features and webservices chrome only... funny that when was ie, everything was angry because was ms, now it's google and it's fine
  • Double standards due to confirmation bias.
  • I'm actually quite disappointed on MS on this myself, having only 2 more engines left is not good for the web overall. An article from a Google browser Dev from the past themselves explained this perfectly https://css-tricks.com/the-ecological-impact-of-browser-diversity/. If they do want do make that so, at least open source EdgeHTML too like Chakra Core since once an browser engine dies it's unlikely for someone else to replace it just like how Opera's Presto engine died in the past in favor of Chromium. This way at least it will live on either through a fork or on a public repo for those who are interested to maintain a non-chromium engine. Or at least if they did want to help out competition they'd partner up with Mozilla's servo engine so that it'll balance out the chromium mono-culture that's developing these days. Even with Edge's pitiful market share they did help competition. Edge touted for battery life which was neglected in favor of performance for Chrome and Firefox, but since Edge was the only one touting for this. It was a benchmark that started to get considered by other browsers especially for Mobile / Laptops and made Chrome and Firefox to consider battery life as well on making changes.
  • "Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet," Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla, writes. "By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google."
    Totally agree...
    "They determine core capabilities such as which content we as consumers can see, how secure we are when we watch content, and how much control we have over what websites and services can do to us. Microsoft's decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us."
    Less control for your browsing, more control for advertisers targeting you, more control to NSA to sniff on you!
  • It appears Microsoft is abandoning its OS and adopting Android and Google as its preferred alternative. No loyalty is shown in its behavior. They doesn't care about user's privacy, they only care about incomes. PWA handled by Google?
  • And Mozilla is right. I mean, if you think about it, how utterly stupid are we, because we willingly give all of our personal information to an advertising company in the first place?
  • Lots of good points here and I thought I was over thinking the situation. Apparently not lol.
  • I have used Firefox for as long as I can remember, and will continue to do so. I even pass them a little cash every now and then. Don't use Chrome, and never will. Even on my Android phones and tablets, I use Firefox.
  • Following Mozilla’s line of thought, they must have warned Google about using a rendering engine based on WebKit would cease control to Apple. That was not the then and certainly will not be the case with Edge on Chromium.
  • Following Mozilla’s line of thought, they must have warned Google about using a rendering engine based on WebKit would cease control to Apple. That was not the then and certainly will not be the case with Edge on Chromium.
  • Fantastical response! Come on Microsoft, don't cede monopoly to Google
  • If you can't beat them, join them?
  • It seems a lot of people in this space don't have much of a fundamental understanding of how open source software works. Chromium is not run by some independent consortium or steering committee - it is run by Google, and if they don't like something Microsoft contributes to the project, they have authority to reject it. Forking from Chromium would leave Microsoft out in the cold again and totally defeat the purpose of switching in the first place. In the short term it's great as it will quickly turn Edge into a much more competitive product, in the long it is bad for the web. My big hope out of this is that the switch results in Edge gaining a good amount of browser share - and THEN they can fork, so that Google can't so easily ignore standards set by the W3C. We have seen time and again that Google will jump at the first chance to control as much of the web as they can, and is happy to stoop to dirty tricks like intentionally sabotaging their website performance on other browsers.