Former Microsoft Edge Intern Claims Google Callously Broke Rival Web Browsers

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If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to have been the case when Microsoft officially announced earlier this month that it would be abandoning its own EdgeHTML rendering engine used for the Edge browser in favor or Google's Chromium. At the time, Microsoft said that this move was an effort to "create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers."

However, according to a Hacker News post by Joshua Bakita, who served as an intern on Edge team, Microsoft was basically left with no choice but to join the Google fold. If his accounts are accurate, it seems as though Google was actively looking for ways to thwart competing browsers from properly accessing/displaying its web apps. While it was easy for Google to make little changes here and there, it became increasingly difficult for Microsoft to continue fixing "incompatibilities" that Google purposefully introduced.

"For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update)," writes Bakita. "Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome's dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life."

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Bakita continued, adding that this behavior by Google was by in no means making the user experience any better, and was instead making the web slower.  He went on to add this this was only one case in which Google used underhanded tactics to advance its Chrome browser. He adds:

What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.

Now while I'm not sure I'm convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced - and they're the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.

You can easily see why situations like this would be problematic for Microsoft. If the sites that users frequently visit are always broken or performing under par when using your browser, they are likely going to choose another browser. And what browser are they most likely to choose? Google Chrome, of course.

However, some of the onus also falls on Microsoft. Since Edge is coupled with the Windows 10 operating system, major updates to the browser only come twice a year. Competing browsers like Chrome and Firefox are updated on a much more frequent basis, with the latter being better insulated from any perceived Google trickery. For its part, the move to Chromium will allow Microsoft to decouple Edge from Windows 10 and update it more frequently.

What's interesting about this whole situation is that Microsoft Edge really isn't even a threat to Chrome's browser dominance (and neither is Firefox). Edge never became the dominant force in the browser market that Microsoft hoped it would be -- even though it's the default web browser in Windows 10. Or if we look at it from a more suspicious eye, maybe the reason that Edge hasn't been more popular is exactly because of these alleged Google tactics (something that Microsoft knows a thing or two about from its own past transgressions).