Microsoft announced Edge for Mac at Build 2019. This new Edge is a revamped version of Microsoft’s browser in which they are replacing its underlying framework with Chromium. This means that it will look and work a lot like Google’s Chrome browser but with Microsoft’s own features on top. It also means that Microsoft will be releasing a browser for macOS after 15 years. We got our hands on a ‘leaked’ build of Edge for Mac and played around with it. Here’s a preview of what to expect when it makes its way to the general public.
The last time Microsoft released a browser for Mac was Internet Explorer for OS X, 15 years ago. At that time, Internet Explorer was actually a really good browser on Mac. Infact, it was the default browser for OS X for sometime, until Apple created Safari.
Edge was Microsoft’s attempt at resurrecting their browser efforts with a new name and design. There were also technically fundamental changes due to its usage of EdgeHTML as its rendering engine which was a fork of Trident, Internet Explorer’s rendering engine. However, it was based on modern standards and performance was as good as WebKit. Or so it seemed.
Microsoft Edge never became a fan favorite, thanks to Google Chrome’s benefits over it. Performance, perfect support for Google’s websites and bleeding edge of web standards meant that Chrome would be the favored browser by a majority of the users, despite Edge being Windows 10’s default browser. This is one of those instances where Microsoft’s power of default apps did not succeed.
Oh, and let’s not forget that unlike Edge, Chrome was available everywhere: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux. Edge was released on smartphones 2 years after its desktop version, but never released on Mac. Until now.
Something unexpected happened this year. Microsoft announced that it will be moving Edge to Chromium, the open source project on which Chrome, Opera and many other browsers are based on. Microsoft also shared their intentions of bringing the browser to as many platforms as possible, including Mac.
Edge for macOS
On first launch, you could easily confuse Edge as Chrome with a theme. Placement of tabs, menu button and many other items is very similar to Chrome. However, when you look closely, you realize that the browser is very much Microsoft’s.
Microsoft has gone ahead and customized every part of the browser. From the icons, to menus, to settings and even adding Bing to places where nobody asked for it, Edge already has a lot of polish for an unreleased browser. Whatever feature you can find in Chrome, it exists in Edge and then some. You will find support for notifications, Chrome extensions, dark theme, profiles, background sync and more.
As expected, Microsoft has released Google Sync with Microsoft account. Even Google search is replaced by Bing. If you are testing out Edge, you might want to head over to Settings > Privacy and Services > Address Bar to switch to Google. You can also chose to use DuckDuckGo if you are privacy conscious.
Microsoft has even replaced Google’s Safe Browsing feature with their own Microsoft Defender Browser Protection. Sigh, many things change but Microsoft’s love for long product names wont.
One of the stand out features is the home tab page. Microsoft has three different types of layouts available for users. The first is focused, which is very similar to Chrome’s new tab page. A search bar and quick links to your most visited websites. Unfortunately, even with a dark theme, you get a light background on this layout.
The next layout is called Inspirational. It is the same as Focused, except with an image of the day by Bing.
The third layout is called Informational. If you love sponsored content and ads, this layout is for you. It has some clickbait and some useful content, powered by Microsoft News. It can be personalized with topics that interest you but I don’t find it interesting to have new tab pages with links to content.
There’s also a custom option which lets you toggle on or off different parts of the page including Bing background images, news feeds and even your most visited websites.
But, all this doesn’t matter much. How is the performance, you may ask?
New tabs open in an instant. Websites load as fast as they do in Chrome. YouTube works great too. I installed my favorite extensions which include Pocket, 1Password X and Onetab and they worked perfectly fine. I did have one or two memory usage hiccups where Edge was creating too many processes, but it’s not as if Chrome doesn’t eat my Mac’s memory like it’s a buffet.
I also had an issue with Microsoft sync but it seems to have started working fine. It only syncs favorites for now. I also noticed that the bookmarks bar either stays always visible or always hidden. Unlike Chrome, it doesn’t show in the new tab page, despite being hidden. I hope Microsoft fixes this soon.
Lastly, Netflix does not play in 1080p resolution in Edge on Mac. You still have to use Safari for that.
It is important to mention again that Edge is still a work in progress. A number of features are not fully implemented yet. Microsoft also announced a number of new features like Collections, Privacy dashboard and Internet Explorer mode, none of which are currently available in canary and development builds.
Download Edge for Mac
If you are an early adopter and cannot wait for to try out the new Edge browser for Mac, you can download the development or canary builds (Thanks to WalkingCat for tweeting these links). The difference between development and canary builds is that canary builds are updated more frequently and might have bugs. In terms of stability, this is the order you should remember: public builds > beta > development > canary.
Note that Microsoft has not put up these links on their Edge Insider website yet – their website still says ‘coming soon’.
I, for one, am happy to welcome Edge on macOS. Chrome is awesome but it’s a bloated mess now. Safari is good but it’s slow and using multiple tabs on it is just not as fluent as Chrome. I’m hoping that Microsoft somehow takes the best of both these browsers and creates one that convinces users to switch.
Update: Microsoft has officially released the Canary Channel build to all users which can be downloaded from the Edge Insider website.