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Larry Magid: Why I prefer Microsoft Edge to Google Chrome

Larry Magid: Why I prefer Microsoft Edge to Google Chrome

For years, the undisputed winner of the browser wars was Google Chrome, especially compared with what Microsoft had to offer. Until 2015, Microsoft’s browser for Windows was the much maligned Internet Explorer (IE), which was slow, bloated and subject to numerous

Larry Magid 

bugs and security issues.  But with Windows 10, Microsoft came out with a new browser called Edge, based on its own proprietary technology. That first version of Edge was arguably better than IE, but not much better.  Google Chrome had the edge over Edge.

But in 2020, Microsoft did something out of character,. and instead of trying to compete with Chrome with its own technology, it took advantage of Google’s open source Chromium browser technology to build an entirely new version of its Edge browser.  Chromium is the underlying technology for Google Chrome, which Google makes available for other companies to use as the basis of their own browsers. By building on top of Chromium, Microsoft not only took advantage of Google’s advanced browser technology but was able to build a browser that is both different but highly compatible with Google Chrome. It’s so compatible that Chrome extensions (little programs that enhance browser functionality) also work with Edge.

Even though Edge is based on the same technology as Chrome, it’s not a clone. It has its own look and feel and features along with differences when it comes to performance, memory use, energy optimization and privacy.

Whether Edge is better than Chrome depends on who you ask and when you ask it. Both browsers have their fans and detractors, and  in this competitive world, both browsers are constantly being updated. It’s quite possible for one to get new features or performance enhancements that the other doesn’t have, followed by a new version of either browser that could again change the equation.

Privacy

Although both Microsoft and Google claim to protect your privacy, Microsoft does more when it comes to allowing you to control tracking, which enables websites to record where you’ve been and display ads based on your online behavior.

Edge gives you three levels of tracking control: Basic, which allows most trackers across all sites, balanced (the default), which blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited, and Strict, which blocks all trackers. Google, which makes most of its money from advertising, doesn’t offer that level of control, though it will let you block third party cookies that are created and stored by sites other than those you are visiting.

Devices and syncing

Both browsers work on most platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Chrome also supports Chromebooks.  And both browsers can sync your favorite sites, passwords, history and extensions. Edge will also synch your Collections. Chrome is a bit more advanced in synching even more settings and appears to synch a bit faster. The advantage of synching is that your settings in one device are automatically carried over to another. So , if I create a favorite on my PC, that favorite is also available on my smartphone and other devices.

Performance, energy and memory use

Speed of rendering pages is a big deal with browsers, but fortunately, both Chrome and Edge do a good job in this arena. I’ve seen some benchmark tests give the nod to Chrome, while most give it to Edge. But the difference is negligible. I’ve run both side by side and have seen Chrome load some pages faster and Edge win on others, but that could be due to other factors like the speed of the site’s servers. For all practical purposes, these two browsers — which do rely on the same site rendering technology — are tied.

While performance may be similar, Edge beats out Chrome when it comes to memory and energy use. Chrome is infamous for being a resource hog. You probably won’t notice it in most situations but if you have a lot of tabs open, you may see your system slow down or run out of battery sooner if it’s not plugged in. There are reports that Google is working on making Chrome more memory and energy efficient.

Features

Despite their common technology, Chrome and Edge offer different features and here — once again — Edge has the edge.

One of my favorite Edge features is Collections, which is kind of like bookmarking on steroids, allowing you to create a series of separate collections where you can store links to favorite websites. You could, for example, have a collection of news sites, health sites, entertainment sites, etc. Creating and adding to a collection is easy. Just click on the + icon to the right of the browser’s address bar to bring up the Collections menu.

Another handy Edge feature allows Windows users to install websites as if they were apps. Once you do this, the site can be accessed from your desktop or taskbar just as if it were its own application. Chrome has a similar feature called Create Shortcut, but the Edge solution is more robust. You save a page as an app by going to the menu (click on … in the upper right corner), selecting “Apps” and then “Install this site as an app”.

Although I’m not sold, a lot of people like Edge’s new Vertical Tabs feature that allows you to view your open tabs on the left edge of the browser rather than on top. It does allow you to have more tabs open but I generally prefer to limit the number of open tabs.

Even though Google remains the king of online commerce, Edge does have one feature that some shoppers may love but others might find annoying. When you’re shopping for an item, it can check to see if you’re getting the best price and taking advantage of any available coupons or discounts. There’s a part of me that hates the idea of a browser looking over my shoulder while shopping, but another part of me appreciates the discounts that I have found while shopping.

Speaking of looking over your shoulder, Microsoft offers a free “editor” that monitors what you type and suggests improvements, kind of like the third party app Grammarly. It’s more robust than a spell checker though it’s not likely to automatically turn you into a prize-winning author. You don’t have to be an Edge user to take advantage of it. It’s available as an extension for both Edge and Chrome.

Changing landscape

As I said, things are constantly changing in the browser wars and, as I write, I’m learning about new features in both Edge and Chrome, including some that may give Chrome an advantage. The good news is that both browsers are free, and there is no reason you can’t go back and forth, depending on what features you need. The other good news is that a little healthy competition between browsers makes for even more improvements over time.

Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely, a non-profit internet safety organization that has received support from Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other technology companies.

 

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