Microsoft Edge’s Chromium Makeover Will Include Chrome Extensions Support

Microsoft made somewhat of a surprise announcement last week when it detailed plans to overhaul its struggling (in terms of market share) Edge browser and rebuild it around Chromium (much to Mozilla's dismay), the exact same platform that powers Google's own customized Chrome browser. That's a big change, but will Edge support Chrome's extensive library of extensions? If all goes to plan, the answer is yes.

Microsoft Edge
Microsoft is rebuilding its Edge browser around Chromium

That wasn't a topic Microsoft chose to address in its blog post announcing the upcoming change to Edge. However, Edge product manager Kyle Alden stated in a discussion on Reddit that his browser team has every intention of baking in support for Chrome's vast extensions catalog.

"It's our intention to support existing Chrome extensions," Alden said.

For the retooled Edge browser to ultimately not support Chrome's existing extensions, either something would have to go terribly wrong during development, or Microsoft would need to alter its plans. Both of those seem unlikely and would probably be met with significant blow back from users.

One of the reasons why Chrome is so popular is because it has been successful in getting developers to build various extensions. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to convince users to switch over from Firefox, back when it was the most popular browser on the block.

Things have changed since then. According to Net Applications, Chrome dominates the browser scene on desktops and laptops with a lion's share of the market, and specifically 63.6 percent. Internet Explorer is in a distant second place at 11.19 percent, followed by Firefox at 10 percent and Edge at just 4.34 percent.

Alden also addressed the timing of retooling both Edge and Windows 10 (as it applies to apps) to Chromium.

"Existing UWP apps (including PWAs in the Store) will continue to use EdgeHTML/Chakra without interruption. We don’t plan to shim under those with a different engine. We do expect to offer a new WebView that apps can choose to use based on the new rendering engine," Alden said.

Porting Windows 10 over requires more delicate handling than Edge, given that Windows 10 is widely used. It's also necessary if moving on from EdgeHTML—it's the backbone of web-based UWP apps and the PWA engine in Windows 10.

"We expect to provide support for PWAs to be installed directly from the browser (much like with Chrome) in addition to the current Store approach. We're not ready to go into all the details yet but PWAs behaving like native apps is still an important principle for us so we'll be looking into the right system integrations to get that right," Alden added.

Microsoft's overhaul of Edge won't just affect Windows 10 desktops. In response to a question asking what this shift means for Edge on Xbox, Alden said it's Microsoft's "intention to bring the next version of Microsoft Edge to all Microsoft devices."