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Microsoft polishes up Chromium as EdgeHTML peers into the abyss

When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes into you. Or is that just Windows Hello?

Microsoft could be preparing to ditch the EdgeHTML layout engine of its unloved Edge browser in Windows 10 in favour of Chromium, according to reports surfacing on the eve of the company's developer event Connect();.

The reports point to a mystery project, codenamed Anaheim, which will replace Edge as the default web browser in Windows, perhaps as soon as the next release of Windows 10, dubbed 19H1, likely due in April 2019.

Edge itself made an appearance with Windows 10 three years ago and represented a concerted effort by Microsoft to ditch the legacy of Internet Explorer. It has hardly been a roaring success, and as of today accounts for 4 per cent of desktop market share, according to StatCounter. Google's Chrome has the lion's share, at 72.38 per cent. Even the browser that Edge was supposed kill off hovers at 5.38 per cent.

Early versions of Edge lacked features and could charitably be described as a bit wobbly, both things the gang at Redmond has worked hard to address over the years. On Windows 10, at least, the latest incarnation has addressed most of the initial issues. Microsoft is also very happy to trot out statistics showing that the browser is easier on the battery, snappier and more secure than its competitors.

However, customers still regard it as "that thing I use to download Chrome" and developers, doubtless weary of Microsoft’s habit of shifting the platform goalposts every few years, have, by and large, ignored it.

Mobile versions of Edge, of course, do not use the EdgeHTML layout engine. iOS's incarnation uses Webkit and Android’s version gets Chromium Blink.

Microsoft engineers have been contributing to the open source Chromium codebase, as part of an effort to get Chrome up and running natively on the version of Windows 10 targeting Arm chippery. As such, the company is clearly familiar with the code.

It is hard to see much of a downside to Microsoft ditching EdgeHTML in favour of Chromium. Aside from a little wounded pride within the bowels of Redmond and some fanboys desperate to see Microsoft "beat" the likes of Google, many developers would be relieved to see a reduction in target platforms.

In recent years, Microsoft has taken some tough decisions with regards to throwing resources at tech with no future (Windows Phone, Microsoft Band, and so on) and also embraced Open Source with the fervour of the born-again believer. If the rumours are true, a brain transplant for Edge is not outside of the realms of possibility.

Naturally, we asked Microsoft if EdgeHTML was indeed about to get shoved into the cupboard of forgotten tech at Redmond and were told "Microsoft doesn't comment on rumours or speculation." ®

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