When Microsoft announced it was switching the foundations of its home-grown Edge browser to a Chromium base we asked if it might allow the app to come to Linux.
And now have an answer (of sorts): “maybe”.
The first (Windows-only for now) development build of Chromium-powered Edge was made available to download this week. A version for macOS is said to be coming ‘very soon’.
But what about Linux?
Well, Microsoft’s Kyle Pflug responded to the tux question on Twitter. He said that a Linux build is something the Edge team would “like to do eventually” but they ‘can’t commit to Linux just yet’.
Interesting that the answer wasn’t a flat-out no — but just how likely is it?
Almost every major Chromium-based web-browser is available across Windows, macOS and Linux, including Google Chrome, Vivaldi and Opera.
Technically, there’s no reason why Edge can’t also straddle the set too.
Microsoft Edge is keen to be seen as more than just another Chrome clone.
To this end, they plan to make major changes and add new features to browser, ranging from PDF viewer improvements, better battery and resource usage, enhanced web standards, smooth scrolling, and ARM64 support.
Microsoft say they switched to using Chromium to pursue their (somewhat noble) aim of improving web compatibility, reducing fragmentation, and improving the user experience.
The browser’s development team isn’t simply taking a copy of Chromium and building out from there. They’re also digging down.
A swathe of Google-specific features have been stripped out or replaced in the underlying Chromium framework, as this slide, taken from a recent Edge presentation at the ‘BlinkOn 10’ developer event, details:
Quite the collection, isn’t it?
The downside is that some of the “replaced” parts could end up being Windows-specific, negating the ability to (easily) port Edge to Linux.
There’s also the big question of whether Linux users would even use a Microsoft-branded browser that’s padded out with Microsoft-specific services (like Bing) or integrations with web-based services (like Outlook).
A nice gesture? Absolutely. A must-have? Probably not.
That said, the availability of Edge on Linux would help web developers working on Linux. They’d no longer need to keep a Windows VM within reach solely to double check changes.