Years ago, while working with Microsoft as part of the team working on Internet Explorer, I was part of a conversation about abandoning the efforts to build a competing browser rendering engine. As mainly an observer to the discussion, I had the benefit of not having a vested interest in the chosen outcome. The argument I felt was most compelling was the notion that the definition of success meant exact parity.
Rendering engines, like any software, are built to deliver the defined spec, so if everyone did it right, we would have the same result as others. It’s a bit simplistic, but if the spec is followed correctly, all rendering engines should create the same size box, in the same location, with the same padding, and so on. There are different ways to program the details, but I’m talking about the end result.
Taken to an extreme, you could spend vast sums of money on resources, and no one would know which was yours or the competitors. There are business justifications for spending that money on the platform development, but that’s a different discussion. I liked the idea of spending money on the differentiation of features as a means to compete and leverage a common rendering platform.
In the days of Internet Explorer, the distinctions between browser rendering were very clear. Even within versions of IE, there were significant differences – which ended up being one of the reasons I started Browsium. Then Microsoft rebuilt the rendering engine that would eventually power Edge and the gaps began to fade. Now we see the first releases of a ‘Chromium Edge’ browser, and I think it’s great.
From a web developer standpoint, we should start to see a much more friendly and efficient development cycle. It was getting better, but there were still differences. From the IT perspective, life will be more comfortable as well. Microsoft always led the way in browser manageability controls, and I believe they will continue that effort on top of this ‘new’ Edge. From a security angle, this should make folks breathe easier.
All in all, I believe it’s going to drive more innovation in browser features by having these teams no longer focus on ‘striving for parity.’ I expect the expansion of new features to unlock a new wave of value from the browser and enhanced user experiences and more powerful business applications. I’m sure there will be problems, there always are, but the introduction of the new Chromium-based Edge is something to embrace, not fear.
Written by Matt Heller