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Don't worry, the new Microsoft Edge (probably) won't look like Chrome

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

This week, screenshots of an internal development version of the new Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge, codenamed "Anaheim," leaked online. They gave us all a first proper look at the work Microsoft is doing regarding its new browser. Unfortunately, those screenshots show us very little we haven't already seen before, thanks to the nature of switching to Chromium as a base for a new browser; it looks exactly like Chrome ... at least for now.

But fear not, if Microsoft does a good job here, the shipping version of Anaheim won't look anything like Chrome. The reason the early builds of Anaheim look like Chrome is that they're both based on the open-source Chromium project, which already has a UI, and Chrome uses that. Since work on Anaheim relatively recently started, Microsoft hasn't yet had time to design its own UI to stick on top, or build out any of the unique features the current Edge has that differentiate it from the other web browsers, like inking directly onto web pages, and perhaps even a set-tabs-aside feature.

Related: Microsoft Edge, Chromium, and Blink FAQ

Microsoft already said that it will be bringing many of these standout features to the new version of Microsoft Edge, but they almost certainly won't be there when Anaheim goes into public testing very soon. There's still a lot we don't know about Anaheim, mainly because Microsoft hasn't really talked about it from a user standpoint just yet. All communication regarding the new version of Edge has been developer-orientated, which only really explains the underside changes, not the changes we can expect to see on the surface.

Using Chromium as a base for your web browser is sort of like giving yourself a head start. You've already got the barebones of a working web browser if you adopt Chromium. With the original version of Edge, codenamed "Spartan," Microsoft forked its own rendering engine that was used in Internet Explorer but essentially started from scratch, which is why it took a few years for Edge to get on par with other browsers. Using Chromium, a browser that's already built-out and stable, you give yourself a head start in building out your own browser. All you have to do is take Chromium, make it your own, and ship it. That's what Microsoft is doing with Anaheim, and is why Anaheim won't need three (or more) years to mature, like the original version of Edge did.

Chrome foundation, Edge on the outside

Microsoft has done a poor job explaining to users what moving to Chromium means for the people already using Edge. In the official announcement, Microsoft stated that most of these changes would be under the hood, but that's just wrong. Moving to Chromium is a huge all-around change, both under the hood and on the surface. I think this will become much more apparent throughout the year, as we see Anaheim slowly progress from a Chromium look alike to hopefully something that looks a little more like the current version of Edge.

Pre-release build of Anaheim

All the Edge specific features you find in Anaheim will be features that Microsoft had to rebuild to be compatible with Chromium. Maybe there's some code reuse in there somewhere, but this is not a trivial thing. Even then, not every single Edge feature is guaranteed to make it over to Anaheim. Microsoft could decide to cut any number of Edge-specific features if it found that not many people use them, as now would be the best time to do that since the company needs to rebuild them anyway.

Anaheim is a new Edge browser, not an update.

Anaheim is an entirely new browser for Microsoft and Edge users. Sure, the shipping product may look like Edge, but under the hood, and on the surface, it's an entirely new browser powered by Chromium and the Blink rendering engine. While Microsoft doesn't have to advertise that fact to ordinary people, it's probably important to share these details with Insiders, IT admins, and the likes — not just developers, who understand this kind of thing a little better than the rest of us.

I wouldn't worry about the UI in the initial previews of the new Edge. We're going to see this evolve, improve, and transform over the year ahead. We'll even see new features, some that were already available in the old Edge and others that will be new to Anaheim. We believe Microsoft will differentiate Anaheim enough that it isn't just another version of Chrome.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

55 Comments
  • I'm Damn excited for the new Edge!
  • You ARE excited with "new" chromium EDGE!!!!!
    Shame Microsoft
  • I hope they at least start with a Dark Mode. Then add the feature in. Looking forward to this.
  • Not sure what's up with everyone saying it looks like Chrome, it clearly has Edge's icons and font and completely different new tabs and settings pages. Not even the tabs have entirely the same shape and are slightly less rounded.
  • The only thing that looks like Chrome is those tabs... That can be very easily modified.
  • Chromium is no UI, it's just a rendering engine. You feed the HTML to it, it renders.
    Of course Edge's not gonna look like Chrome.
  • Actually the rendering engine is Blink, Chromium is the open source browser that browsers like Chrome and Opera base their browsers on. We will soon be able to add Edge to that as well.
  • Every casual user who is able to find that search result are not as good as their phone shows will switch to chrome and the only reason will be the Google integration to it.
    I loved the new start page with Bing wallpapers. Final release should be like this.
  • It looks exactly like Bing home page which I love 😍 to see here!
  • I only hope we have the choice to stay with the old one for as long as possible, cause I'm not seeing Set aside tabs in the new one. I have a lot of work in there.
  • They are also saved under your favorites
  • Not from my experience.
  • Did you just skip the entire article?
  • I'm not a coding guy by any stretch of the imagination, but wouldn't this shift to Chromium essentially open the door for inter-operability with Android/Google Play Chrome extensions. Microsoft has already shown decent cozying-up to Android (Your Phone, selling Android phones in the Microsoft Store, Microsoft Launcher, etc). I feel like this would open the door to play even nicer.
  • They've said it will support Chrome extensions, but whether that means you can install them directly from the Chrome store, I don't know. Hopefully it's like Opera, which has its own store, but they also offer an extension that allows you to use the Chrome store.
  • I don't think they will do that but they will let anyone add the Chrome store there. They are not against having stores inside their stores. An example of that is their own MS stores.
  • Apparently, Chromium Edge will support current Edge extensions via its own "extension store" but the installation of extensions from Chrome Web Store will be there (just flip a setting to activate it)
  • I would imagine that Microsoft would encourage developers of existing Chrome extensions to publish them to the Microsoft Store, most likely allowing them do to so "as is".
  • That's what I'm thinking would make the most sense.
  • Something they did and I think it's for the new Edge is a Timeline extension which already available in chrome store.
  • What do you mean by Android extensions? Do you mean the emulated Android apps? It is emulated software or more like containers what you're using in Chrome when running Android apps on Chrome OS.
  • Makes me wonder if they would consider making the own MS branded Chromebook if this is successful
  • That's the whole point of Windows Lite.
  • He was being sarcastic.
  • That went above my head 😂
  • Was he really?
  • I guess this means we'll be stuck in the same situation as the last 5 years with another non updated/left behind UWP web viewer (only just updated to use the Edge rendering engine)...
  • Let's hope we get more info at Build.
  • This should have been obvious to most people but the outrage of people saying it looks like Chrome was over the top 🙄 It's not even in public beta yet lol. Have patience! Nice write up though Zac.
  • The only thing that looks like Chrome is how tabs and omnibar are rounded. That is it.
  • Just like Microsoft wouldn't dream of releasing Cortana looking like THAT in 19H1... Oops :)
  • I guess it is not clear to me if low level communication services like HTTP will be supplied by Chromium and then the Windows API for these things will be bypassed. If this is the case, it seems redundant and an unnecessary increase on the install storage footprint of the OS assuming Edge will be installed by default and will not be uninstallable. It will be even more doubly wasteful to then install Chrome on your device on top of Edge. Also, how is this new version of Edge going to work on 'Windows Lite'? If new Edge is not UWP, will it work on 'Windows Lite'?
  • If Ms changes the UI to look and act like Edge as it does now then surly that will put people off. It is not the rendering engine on Edge that puts people off, it is the fact that the Edge UI is flipping awful and once again looks like something from mobile phone.
  • I always find it amusing that people whine about the app interface being like something they use on mobile and yet nary a word about the fact that the web page inside the app is EXACTLY what they use on mobile. That a mobile-style UI seems to bother no one when it comes to using web apps is proof to me that most, if not all, of the complaining about web-style GUI apps is contrived.
  • A lot of websites thees days have the same boring mobile phone look, including this one, with lots of white space and stupid hamburger menu system. Sadly I have no control over how people design websites and that they have little imagination,, windows central, looks like the other tech sites around. at the moment I do have some control over what software I use and i certainly prefer the look of the browser i use than the awful interface of Edge.
    If I wanted to use a browser or app that looks like it belongs on a mobile phone, I would use my mobile phone.
  • The reason websites (like this one) look just like the mobile sites is because they are the same site. They're designed so that they scale automatically regardless of your screen size. It's easier to write one website that works on all form factors, than to write two separate websites (one desktop and one mobile).
  • Its gonna be a mess for the next 2 years after its unleashed on us. Knowing msft it will be terrible!
  • Can't see really what difference switching to chromium will be... There argument was that Google would make little bits of code that would slow edge down in their popular sites. Absolutely nothing to stop them continuing to do that no matter what browser engine they build edge from.
  • Except, if Edge is built on the same engine as Chrome, how would Google write code to slow Edge down without slowing Chrome down?
  • That's the idea, if Microsoft use the same rendering engine then any code Google use to slow down their services for Windows users automatically slows it down for ALL Chromium based browsers as well.
  • They won't care as long as Chrome is fast. They are going to add the blobs directly in Chrome.
  • The same engine as Chromium. If Microsoft's implementation starts to gain respectable marketshare they will add the needed blobs directly to Chrome. They won't allow Microsoft to "steal" their marketshare with their own code (Chromium). And unfortunately Chromium/Opera/Vivaldi users are going to suffer from it.
  • How would Microsoft "steal" market share and code from Google when Chromium is open source? Did switching to a Chromium base help Opera and Vivaldi gain market share?
  • Have you seen the quotes? I meant "steal" not steal. This is how Google is going to see it if they lose users from Chrome and they switch to Edge. Microsoft is a multi billion corporation and can push their browser way better than Opera and Vivaldi. Opera and Vivaldi are small companies which can't promote and market their browser to the masses. Google is not going to let Microsoft gain browser marketshare. They will stop open sourcing specific blobs in Chromium and add them directly in Chrome.
  • The difference is that web developers will no longer have to worry about how things will render on the different browsers as everything will render the same. You have no idea how many times I've coded something to look great in Chrome, but then when I test it in Edge it doesn't look the same. In a lot of cases the CSS is interpreted very differently, and I'm really looking forward to the day that goes away.
  • I've actually noticed since the beginning of Ed that some websites and programs recognize edge as chrome based I even noticed this with Adobes website
  • I rather it not look like Edge or Chrome.
  • The way Google has suddenly started implementing Edge features into Chrome since the news (after years of not doing that much to it), it'll probably end up looking like Edge itself anyway. Excited to switch to Edge once it gets up to speed.
  • Oh for heaven's sake folks. Just wait for the damned thing to be released. Everything else here is just speculation. What a waste of time such stories have proven to be over the years. Remember Andromeda, Surface phone and a host of others that were hyped by MS going all the way back to mobile promises. MS execs must be laughing at all of this speculation.
  • For some reason I want to try it and use it. Currently I use chrome. But if it doesn't support chrome extensions I will not be using it. My main extension is FVD Speed Dial and if browser doesn't support it I am not using it.
  • The advantage the new version of Edge will have is that it will have it's own extension store but there is no reason why Chrome extensions won't work and/or can't be ported easily to Edge. Opera has an extension in its store that allows it to install Chrome extensions directly from the Chrome Web Store.
  • I'm actually wondering that some people honestly seem thinking that Microsoft would ship just a rebranded Chrome? I fully expected starting with the announcement that they will heavily customize the new Edge so that it looks much like the current one, but with a brand new engine instead. I'm really excited and I think it's the right move.
  • I really I'm looking forward to this, the new EDGE is looking really promising indeed, I want to see more builds and especially the new EDGE web UI and so forth, it has potential (again) to be better.
  • The new Edge browser will look like the old Edge browser, as much as the Android Edge browser looks like the old Windows phone Edge browser.
  • I am now worried about what Microsoft is doing. With little transparency about what the new Edge Chromium browser will be, it means more resources will be pushed to get working on it. Resources will be pulled from the Edge browser. It's going to be another long mess, and likely in the future Microsoft could possibly not manage to put the complete Edge UI on top of chromium Edge. As many other articles on this matter have shown google still has to improve Microsofts contributions to improving the chromium engine itself. If that is going to be a main focus, it's going to be another mess, as Microsoft has shown before.