Microsoft Edge: A Good Browser Engine Trapped in a God-Awful Browser

Outdated: This article was written and published in 2017. The Edge browser has changed a lot since then.

the Internet Explorer logo, version 7, photoshopped to have devilish horns
At least IE 11 isn’t as bad as IE 7 (pictured) was.

Web developers all know that Internet Explorer sucks and that its replacement, Edge, is dramatically better.

We “know” this because it’s better in the ways we care about: technological ways. Better CSS, JS, DOM APIs. (Most web devs don’t use Edge; we interact with it via the metaphorical 3-meter pole of CanIUse.)

So why are so many Windows 10 users opting to use MSIE 11 instead of Edge?

While I can’t give one, true answer, and I’m sure simple familiarity plays a role, my recent experiences while testing my work in Edge have led me to conclude that Edge just delivers a poor user experience.

At times, Edge can be completely baffling to use.

It’s also fundamentally limiting. Unlike every other major desktop browser, Edge allows neither extensions nor bookmarklets. Bookmarklets, sometimes known as “favelets” in Windows-centric circles, look like bookmarks but contain code that runs on the current page; they start with javascript: instead of http(s):. Aside: I have a collection of bookmarklets, myself. (As far as I can tell, the only popular one enables text selection on sites that disable it.) Both of these limitations are frustrating to me as power-user and as a developer. For instance, I am working on a project involving font stacks. I have a lengthy test page. In every other browser, I am able to use an extension that takes a “full page screen shot” by scrolling the page and stitching the results together. In Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and even Internet Explorer, this is no problem. Done! Yet this is not possible in Edge, where I am reduced to repeatedly jabbing the PrtScn button, opening Microsoft Paint, pasting, saving, and closing Paint. (I can’t get Dropbox’s save-screenshot-to-Dropbox feature to work on my Windows 10 test device. It’s enabled, it just does nothing. I hate computers.) Similarly, one of my bookmarklets is able to guess which font family or keyword is being used to render the currently selected text… but it’s no help in Edge, where bookmarklets are (I repeat in disbelief) completely banned. I can’t even paste the javascript: into the address bar.

Microsoft may or may not have some specious justification regarding security or blah blah blah. I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t buy it, because Windows 10 still ships with IE 11, where all these forbidden pleasures are readily available.

Is it any wonder users are clinging to Internet Explorer?

In the end, Microsoft has managed to once again find a way to remain the “lowest common denominator” of the web despite shipping an eminently serviceable evergreen browser engine.

April 5th, 2017. (Updated: January 28, 2022 at 3:58pm.)
Alan Hogan (@alanhogan_com).  Contact · About