Microsoft is breaking away from Internet Explorer with the upcoming release of Windows 10 — well mostly. Windows 10 will ship with the new Edge browser preinstalled, which is nearly an entire rebuild of IE. IE has been around forever it seems and it has been collecting a lot of baggage over the years for the sake of backwards compatibility. This has made the application bloated and slow compared to other modern browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Microsoft says they are done. Edge is the proof.
Edge is a fast clean browser designed for what Microsoft says is interoperability. In the past they focused only on standard compatibility which according to them made it difficult to support the ever-growing set of web technologies. Microsoft has trimmed huge legacy portions of code from the browser and removed support for features that have been a part of IE for a very long time. One major technology they have removed is support for something called ActiveX which allowed developers to add Windows application features to web pages. Many enterprise applications have relied on ActiveX to develop the web based applications many of their employees use every day. Edge is going to be a stumbling block to Windows 10 adoption…or is it? On January 12, 2016 Microsoft will stop supporting IE 8, 9, and 10. IE 11 will still be supported; however, security updates will be the only active development done for the browser. This means IE 11 will be available for Windows 10, giving ActiveX users and users of many of the other technologies Microsoft has cut from the feature list of Edge a bridge, which will enable the migration to the new operating system.
In an article I read recently, the latest build of Edge ran twice as fast as IE 11 and also beat beta builds of the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox. The look and feel of Edge is more simplified. Microsoft calls it immersive. They have stripped away a lot of the menus and menu bars filled with add-ins, taking the webpage nearly to the very edge of the screen. Edge includes support for Cortana, so she knows and understands your web browsing habits and interests. You can add notes to any page and even write and draw on a page with a touch screen. These notes are saved to the computer and reappear when you return to the page later. You can even share the notes with other Edge users. And the final big feature is one that other browsers like Chrome have supported for a long time and that is extensions. Extensions are programs that can be added to the browser that can be used to customize how certain pages are viewed and add functionality to sites like Reddit for example. This feature isn’t part of the initial release but will be added via an update after the release.
Why is this new browser so important? Well the browser we use is generally out interfaced with our cloud applications and the experience we have with those apps and services is largely dependent on the functionality the browser supports. IE is one of the most used browsers on the planet and when things change with IE it is like there is , to borrow a quote for a movie, “a great disturbance in the Force.” The effects of these changes are felt far and wide by users, developers, and IT departments as they scramble to find solutions and workarounds to keep everything running, until they can figure out how to work with the change.