Edge, Chromium and web monoculture?

The last few days it made the news that apparently Microsoft is about to ditch its latest browser approach, “Edge”, in favour of developing something new for the Windows desktop, on top of Google Chromium browser. This is interesting. And, as one should have expected, this caused quite an uproar throughout some of the media, with people talking about the web more and more heading towards a “browser engine monoculture” as it will essentially leave two browser engines (the one in Firefox/Quantum and the one in Chromium/Chrome) out there, which is bad for competition and apparently bad as more and more browsers depend upon Google, the company a lot of people recently seems to love to hate. 

In a way, there definitely is something to that, but I wonder whether this move, generally, is all bad. Let’s look at it from another point of view, just for a moment: If you’ve been “on the web” for a while, you possibly learnt to hate working with different browsers. Even though talking about “standards” like CSS, HTML or JavaScript, day-to-day life all too often ended up in messing with workarounds for particular browsers, and alike software compatibility lists often ended up effectively being compatibility matrices with difficult and, at times funny, “browser(version) / operating system / supported feature” combinations. Don’t think about testing and maintaining such a mess. 

So, maybe, there’s a chance in the predominance of Chromium (the browser engine) too: Nowadays, browsers are complex and huge. They are difficult to maintain and to build. There’s a load of moving parts inside, just looking at the whole JavaScript runtime environment. Do we really need several of those? Wouldn’t it, from a sustainability and maintaineance point of view, be a smart approach to have one good browser engine which is available as an open-source project, maintained by a large crowd of people who make sure it’s as good, as fast, as performant and stable as somewhat possible? Right now, we already have quite a variety of browsers building upon Chromium, including the FLOSS variant, Googles own variant branded as Chrome, the Iridium Browser which aims at being a massively privacy-enhanced, secured build of the Chromium codebase, the Brave Browser which, asides focussing on privacy aspects as well, tries to find new approaches to make online advertising and site funding better, and a bunch of others. Maybe, with Microsoft moving onto Chromium as well, there might be a chance of making Chromium an open “standard technology”, such as the Linux kernel and a lot of common libraries are “unique standard technologies” to date, and maybe this way building something that could be a gradually better web with less messy JavaScript workarounds, less security issues and a more predictable environment for all those who want to build somewhat “reliable” applications on top of “the web”. We’ll see…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

* Checkbox GDPR is required

*

I agree