Microsoft has released preview versions of the company’s Microsoft Edge Chromium web browser for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 today. The new browser is based on Google’s Chromium base. It is interesting to see the company offering software that was launched as Windows 10 exclusive, to users of Operating Systems that will soon be reaching their end of service and support.
Microsoft has made available test builds of its Chromium-based Edge browser for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. The company has released Canary channel preview builds of Edge browser. These builds are still rather experimental, and being on the Canary channel, will be updated daily. Interestingly, Microsoft appears committed to offering the once Windows 10 exclusive browser to the older versions of the Windows Operating System. Hence the company has indicated it would add the Chromium-based Edge browser to the relatively stable Dev channel builds. However, Microsoft hasn’t indicated a concrete timeline for the development.
Microsoft already offers Canary and Dev channel builds for Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10 and the Mac. However, the company hasn’t yet committed definitively to bringing Chromium-based Edge to Linux. Still, given the increasing affinity towards Linux, and the inbuilt support for the Open Source operating system, it is quite likely that Microsoft Edge for Linux isn’t far from being officially available.
— Mohammed Yusuf (@mohammedyusuf_z) June 20, 2019
Chromium-based Edge Browser Isn’t For General Consumption Yet
As with all such releases, the first Canary builds have some known issues, including lack of dark-mode support and Azure Active Directory sign-in. However, this release and all future releases will include a feature set that will be “largely the same” with Windows 10. Interestingly, upcoming versions of Chromium-based Edge browser for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 will include “Internet Explorer Mode” to address the need for stability and familiarity to businesses who specifically demand backward compatibility.
Back in December 2018, Microsoft had revealed its plans to create a new version of Edge by using Chromium combined with some components currently in Edge. The primary agenda behind the move to the Chromium base was to offer greater browsing compatibility across the web. Interestingly, it was during this time itself, officials said Microsoft planned to make the new Edge browser available on Windows 7, 8.1, 10 and MacOS.
— techcenter (@techcen70555780) June 19, 2019
The Edge browser will continue to ship with Windows 10. However, this development clearly indicates Microsoft is decoupling development of the Edge browser with that of the operating systems which it currently supports and maintains. This will directly translate to different but still active update timelines. In other words, Microsoft should be updating the browser independently of the operating systems on which it runs. This should ensure faster delivery of updates and patches. This itself is strong enough incentive to switch to the new Chromium-based Edge browser because it will get better quicker than the current non-Chromium-based MSHTML version of Edge.
Why is Microsoft Offering Chromium-based Edge Browser To Older Versions Of Windows?
When Microsoft released the original Microsoft Edge browser back in 2015, it made the browser a Windows 10 exclusive offering. Gradually the browser was available for Apple Macintosh devices. Although a version for Linux distributions has not been released yet, Microsoft did not allow the browser to officially trickle down to the older versions of Windows operating systems.
The official release of the preview versions of Microsoft Edge Chromium on the Canary channel is the first version of Microsoft Edge that the company released for its Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 operating systems. The new Edge browser uses the same Chromium core that Google Chrome and other browsers such as Vivaldi, Opera, or Brave use.
Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 OS users can easily download the Chromium-based Edge browser from the official Microsoft Edge Insider website. Just visit the website and hit the download button next to the intended operating system.
The primary reason Microsoft appears to be offering the Chromium-based Edge to Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users is to grant developers simplified testing of their apps and sites. The browser’s availability on a wide range of operating systems should allow developers to thoroughly test their platforms on all different operating systems and Windows variants. Windows 7 is nearing its end of service and support life. Microsoft has regularly reminded users of the operating system that support for Windows 7 will end on January 14, 2020. Nonetheless, the OS continues to run on a large number of PCs.