Microsoft Edge has a new engine. Google’s Chrome has long been the leading web browser and Microsoft’s approach has staggered over the years. We all know not to use Internet Explorer, right? Edge came with Windows 10 and brought security and some innovation. But in the end, Microsoft decided to adopt the open-source Chromium browser engine to power Edge into the future. It’s arrived and it’s worth a look.
It is probably worth a quick mention to clarify that Chromium isn’t Chrome. Chromium and Chromium OS are the chassis for other web applications. Using a Chromebook? The Chrome OS is built on top of Chromium OS. So is Neverware’s Cloudready. Using the Opera web browser? Chromium-based, just like Google Chrome.
And now, Microsoft Edge.
Once you’ve installed it, you’ll find it’s a lot like Google Chrome. I’m primarily a Mozilla Firefox user and the new Edge is a lot more similar than different to Firefox now too.
One reason I am hopeful for Microsoft Edge is that Google Chrome is really a front end for Google’s ad business. Microsoft will be attempting the same ad selling but I’m hoping there are more opportunities to limit it.
To start with, as soon as you have Edge installed, you’ll want to customize its settings. There are a lot more than I expected. I was impressed at how many of them were set to protect my private information by default.
Privacy and Services
Still, there were some minor changes. First, go to Edge’s settings (three dot menu, top right) and drop down to the Privacy and services area. You can increase privacy protection by selecting Strict. This is really informative because it tells you the difference between the settings.
I also toggled off the option to allow sites to check if I have payment methods saved. There is no reason for a web site to know that information until I’m actually paying. I also toggled off the personalized web experience.
Site Permissions is another area to spend a bit of time. You can pre-emptively block a lot of the privacy settings here. Unless you use your browser with a camera or microphone, you can block those. I block location as well. A new one for me was motion or light sensors. I blocked it because I’m not sure what it’s doing.
Adobe Flash is blocked by default. Hooray! Like the old Edge, you can toggle Flash support on if you need it.
There is a weak ad block inside the browser. It will block intrusive and misleading ads. Turn it on but you will want to use extensions to block other things. I’ll touch on extensions below.
Three other areas I turned off: handlers and clipboard. If you cut and paste things (like passwords from your password manager) to the clipboard, you don’t necessarily want a web site to be able to see that content. Similarly, a web browser can handle a variety of content types. I didn’t want the web site to designate itself as my default for that content type without me knowing. There’s also a payment handlers option. I didn’t want a site installing an app that had anything to do with payments.
Microsoft has been way behind the curve on this and they have now sling-shotted forward. Internet Explorer had few and mostly terrible add-ons / extensions. Edge has always had a very small number compared to Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
One of the benefits of going to a Chromium-based model is that you can now use some extensions developed for other Chromium-based browsers. Like Chrome.
When I installed the new Edge, it automatically updated the browser extensions that were compatible: Ghostery and uBlock Origin in my case. It did not update extensions that were no longer supported. Fortunately, the only one that I had was a Translator extension and translation is built-in to Edge.
There are other extensions that I use on Firefox though that I wanted to use on Edge but haven’t in the past. The inability to use these extensions limited my use of Edge. But the two primary ones – Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger and Hackedimix’s NoScript – were are in the Google Chrome web store.
Under your Extension settings, at the bottom left, you’ll see a toggle for adding developers’ options and other extension stores. If you toggle the other stores to on, you can install from sources other than Microsoft’s own extension store.
Toggle on (and off again if you like) the option to allow extensions from other stores
Now you can go to the Chrome web store, find your extension, and click the Add to Chrome button. Edge should add the extension. My guess is that this is probably not 100% cross compatibility. But it worked for both Privacy Badger and NoScript.
Google Chrome web store visited while using the Microsoft Edge web browser
If you use either of these browser extensions and add them to Edge, here’s a helpful tip. You can export your Privacy Badger and NoScript settings from your other browser. You can them import them into the extension in Edge. That will save having to re-teach the extension.
Every person treats this home page differently. I prefer to have as little clutter open when I open a new browser window. You can control what opens in your settings (Appearance). But if you scroll down the home page, you find a bunch of other junk there too.
When you installed Edge, it offered three setups: informational, inspirational, and focused. All of them seem to include cruft below the fold. If you like having news load in your browser, you can leave it. Or customize the topics and channels. But it will load ads in among that content.
I prefer to have it as clean as possible. When you are on the home page, you can click the small wheel in the top right corner (I’ve heard people refer to it as a cog or flower too) to get to the settings for the Home Page.
If you select Custom settings, you can exert additional control over the home page. In my case, I turned off everything. Now I just get a new tab with a search bar in the middle.
I am really looking forward to using the new Edge. I am hoping it will be adopted soon at my place of work so that I can have this same experience wherever I use Edge. It will be a better alternative as I’m toggling between web browsers, and to keep myself out of Google’s ad-focused business path.