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On Microsoft, Internet Explorer, and Chromium

Everyone has an opinion about the topic — So why wouldn’t I?

I’ve been a web developer for 10 years. So, when I read headlines such as:

something something Microsoft is killing Internet Explorer something something”.

I can’t help but gloat over their defeat while sobbing tears of joy.

Raise your glasses! The king is dead, long live the king. Photo by Alasdair Elmes.

Sure, I might be biased. I challenge you to install a fresh copy of IE 7 (if you feel adventurous, go with IE6) and create a website. You’ll feel my pain.

What is really happening?

Microsoft is killing its web engine, called “EdgeHTML”. A web engine is the piece of software browsers rely upon to render websites. They are an engineering masterpiece. A huge chunk of critical code. So it’s not cheap.

Microsoft is ditching it in favor of Chromium, an open source alternative that is being used by Chrome and Opera, among others.

Chromium-based browsers now account for the ~70% of the global market share. For both desktop and mobile.

Microsoft will (likely) continue expanding the Edge family, but the core of the new version will be completely different from his brothers. So different that it will be available on MacOS and Linux.

Why is this happening, though? How we got here?

It’s the dominance, stupid!

How come Google Chrome got obtained such a tremendous amount of market share? Because they had the platform to push Chrome down everyone’s throat. Android, and other Google services (Youtube, Maps), they all point you the right direction.

It is easier to push your agenda when you have this kind of influence.

Yet Microsoft was the dominant (may I say the only?) player of the browser landscape for years. And not a single fuck was given about standards, pushing the web further, making things right. And then someone overtakes them.

Is it a monopoly? You bet it is.

Is it bad? You double bet it is.

Was it a monopoly already? Yea.

Microsoft lived despite the web. Google lives because of the web. The better the web, the higher the benefit for big G.

It’s not about features, stupid!

Firefox is great. It runs fast, smooth, sweet. Its devtools have improved so much that you could actually use them to develop something. Only Chrome offered this for years.

Yet, regular people (as in “not power users”) won’t switch browsers because “the rendering engine something something”.

But yeah, you want to talk about features? OK. Let’s keep in mind that Microsoft now owns Github, so it also owns Electron. You know what cool tool is built using Electron? Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code, for example. And Microsoft Teams. And Github Desktop. And Skype.

So what”, you might think. Well, Electron is the way of creating desktop apps using web technologies (JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and so on). And it ships with Chromium to render those technologies. We’ve come full circle.

Safari is the only significant browser (LOL at “significant”) that doesn’t run on Chromium. But Safari is… meh. Is Apple unable to hire great engineers and make them create the best web experience? Heh. The question is why they would? To cripple out the native app market share? You know that thing about a gun and shooting your own foot?

We moved from the IE-dominance era, which sucked so hard, right to the Chromium-dominance era.

Will it be bad?

If you are an idealist (and I am), yes. Giving up control to big corporations is bad. This news just make the situation worse.

Will it make the Web™ a better place? Probably, I’m not sure. For web developers, sure. This time, the company behind the monopoly wants (needs) to improve the ecosystem. But yeah, I’m sure that everything a trillion-dollar capitalist does be in your best interest.

I, for one, will be giving Firefox another chance. Mostly because, well, principles.