Snapshots of Microsoft's project to move its Edge browser from its own EdgeHTML rendering engine to Chromium's Blink Engine have now cropped up online, provided by unnamed sources. The browser is reportedly undergoing testing across two distinct channels that are very similar to how Google Chrome operates behind the scenes. Namely, there is a weekly-updated Dev channel as well as a Canary channel that's updated on a daily basis.
No details have been provided regarding exactly which channel the new screen captures are from but there are several immediately noticeable changes in place already. Edge now bears a striking resemblance to Chrome in its overall appearance, with some elements that made Edge popular still in place too.
The best example of that may be the inclusion of a Chrome-like menu just to the right of the URL bar with a user profile and extensions laid out similar to Chrome. The new tab page looks almost identical like the one found in Chrome but the background image is provided via Microsoft's own Bing search engine -- and that extends to effectively every area where a Chrome user might expect to find Google.
Scrolling down on the new tab page also brings up a very Edge-like newsfeed, driven by Microsoft News. That's still customizable too.
About those extensions
Another big difference that's immediately noticeable is Microsoft's decision to prop up its own market for extensions, similar to Google's Chrome Web Store. For the time being, the Edge-specific store is reportedly mostly populated by extensions found on that other market with the expectation that Microsoft will diversify its offerings over time.
Edge will also allow users to install extensions from the Chrome Web Store itself, giving users some choice in their use of the browser -- at least to begin with, although that could change. Presently, that requires a toggle to be switched over in the settings menu.
Settings are markedly more similar to Chrome's settings as well. They maintain an aesthetic that's close to the settings found on Windows machines, so that hasn't changed much but they no longer appear as a slide-out sidebar. Instead, Settings open in a new tab.
In the details
In-depth information about Microsoft's bid to make its Edge browser run on the same open-source rendering engine as Chrome comes down to necessity more than anything else. As things currently stand, updates to the browser simply don't happen fast enough since they're tied in with overall Windows updates. Developing for Edge isn't without a hassle and when things go wrong, that quirk makes fixing things more work than its worth in many cases.
With Google's fast-moving Chromium utilizing an open-source approach to continuously push web standards forward, Edge simply can't keep up. To rectify the issue, Microsoft confirmed it would be embracing open source and pouring its considerable resources into backing Chromium as recently as December.
The underlying goal is to not only make Edge a more modern browser, holding to standards and updating more regularly. Microsoft also wants to help improve Chromium itself by providing its own input in areas such as security, touch interactions, gesture controls, and wider compatibility and consistency across the web on all platforms. That includes making extensions more up-to-date and usable, in addition to making life easier for extension developers.
There's still no timeline for when the new Edge browser will finally be released but the new screenshots seem to imply that work has been quick and it shouldn't be too much longer.