Chrome, Edge, and the user between – Observations on privacy, convenience, and the state of compassion – Chrome Unboxed


Every time I read the news on Google Discover on my phone, I see various articles that, for one reason or another, proclaim that the reader should “ditch Google Chrome in favor of Microsoft Edge”. These articles often cite many new and upcoming Edge features, and even the fact that Edge is now built with Chromium – the same browser source code as Google Chrome. In preparation for my thoughts today, I articles like “x or y feature in Edge might finally be a reason to ditch Google Chrome”, and “Is it time to ditch Chrome? Millions are switching to Edge and it’s not hard to see why”, and so on.

I hate to admit that each and every time I scroll past one of these, I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit. There are so many people who are attempting to urge the masses away from Google and toward Microsoft, but there are a few things we ought to remember along the way. With that said, these types of articles are getting old and frustrating now, but they do provide us with some key takeaways about Google, Microsoft, and the future of the browser, and a user’s privacy.

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To be sure that I was being completely fair with my assessment of Microsoft Chromium Edge, I spent this week using it exclusively on my Windows 10 PC. Yep, you heard that right – a Chromebook fanatic switched to Edge and used a Windows computer! Not only that but I also switched to Bing for web searches *gasp*! I dug as far in as I could using only Microsoft apps and services and tried to build my entire workflow around its offerings. In essence, I de-Googled myself for this experiment.

Some of my initial thoughts were that I really enjoyed Edge’s vertical tabs feature. I actually believe that they’re the future of how we will manage and browse the internet. Believe it or not, Google tried this years ago in the form of ‘side tabs’, and we even wrote about it! Because I couldn’t live without Chrome’s Tab Groups feature, I enabled it via edge://flags and enjoyed the powerful combination of Tab Groups, Vertical Tabs, and Edge’s exciting Collections feature. I believe that Chrome may be receiving the ability to collapse tab groups into the Reading List soon, thanks to its new Side Panel feature, so fans may not need to wait long to utilize this same tool directly in Google’s own browser. The latest Tab Scrolling and buttons development seem to argue against this, but they’re trying to find ways to decongest the horizontal space issue, so I think that the natural evolution of these tools is to eventually follow Edge’s move to vertical tabs.

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Collections in Edge are not the same as Google’s Collections feature, though they may one day be thanks to Assistant Memory. Instead, they allow you to collapse browser tabs into different named containers for later recall. It felt as though my ability to move between multiple devices and retain my browsing sessions would be more complete with such a feature. Oh, and the ability to add sticky notes in the Collections section was really useful as well and was a thoughtful addition. Another feature I really enjoyed with Edge is the Web Capture tool. I can see how being able to take a quick screenshot of the web without the need for any third-party software could be very useful, especially since having multiple devices with different operating systems means that your native tools and shortcuts for such things are inconsistent across.

Lastly, the Edge browser has a built-in Share button on the desktop! I’ve been complaining for years about how Chrome doesn’t have this, and how it makes no sense. I mean, it’s 2021 – sharing is at the core of our experiences, so to have to copy and paste links manually on a desktop or laptop browser is a bit goofy, in my opinion. Sharesheet in Chrome OS is being developed as Sharing Hub and will be available in the near future for Chromebooks, but I haven’t seen much evidence of this coming to Windows, macOS, and Linux Desktop Chrome yet.

I’ll briefly touch on Microsoft Bing and its news here since they’ve integrated it so well into the browser. Articles had a prominent read it later button and were well designed, but the service was obsessed with showing me news related to tragedies even after I tuned my recommendations to make them more technology-oriented. I’m no fan of Google News, but I’d rather see annoying politics over death and destruction – though some would argue they can very much be synonymous.

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I’ll save my thoughts on the Microsoft app ecosystem for another time, but in wrapping up my little experiment, I’m not going to say that you should use one over the other, but I personally ended up going back to Google Chrome for several reasons. First, Chromium Edge continued to freeze and crash on me. I spent several hours troubleshooting technical solutions like disabling Proxy features in the browser’s settings, force quitting the processes via Task Manager, and so on, (This part of my journey reminded me why I love the simplicity of Chromebooks so much!) but I was unable to get a Microsoft browser to work well with a Microsoft computer – odd. Unlike five or so years ago, Chrome no longer seems to be the resource hog it used to be, thanks to its constant exploration of AI and machine learning tricks – like PartitionAlloc – to and even with tons of open, non-collapsed or frozen tabs, it was snappy and fluid.

Because I truly wanted my Windows machine to have immediate access to web searching without the need to open a new Edge tab (Once you have a Chromebook, you can’t miss out on this!), I utilized the Windows search functionality – which opened queries in Bing. Bing had several interesting features – a professional design, the ability to add videos into playlists and play them directly in search, and more. Unfortunately, for all of the Scroogled ads you’ve ever seen, Bing search results were admittedly pretty crappy compared to Google. I found that returned information was less relevant not only in answering the questions I was asking, but also in content type.

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In the end, I found that adding Chrometana Pro to my Chrome browser and following its instructions to install Edge Deflector allowed me to use Windows search in order to open search results in Chrome, even though Microsoft has gone through great lengths to prevent this from being possible over the past few years. Now, when I’m forced to use my Windows machine for game development (Google, pretty please get Unreal Engine running on Chrome OS), I can essentially have my cake and eat it too when it comes to the speed and accuracy of Search – something that I’m accustomed to centering my computing experience around.

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So, let’s touch on the issue of security – something the aforementioned “ditch Chrome” articles often cite. Security will be an issue no matter which company you choose – profit directly opposes privacy, and that’s a law of nature. Google has done a lot to show that it wants to protect user privacy, but it’s also done a lot to counteract its efforts over the years. Like the ship of Theseus, Google is no longer an actual ship, but the idea of the ship – it can’t exactly be killed, but it also can’t exactly be defined, and because of that, it can’t operate in perfect unison with the all of its moving parts. I’m not knocking it, it’s the truth of its existence, and if we want to use Google Services, Microsoft Services, or anything in between, we need to come to terms with that.

It’s no longer enough to choose a brand that you’re interested in or that you find favor with for a season and then to trash or ditch the rest. It’s also no longer enough to simply pick up a piece of technology and begin using it blindly. Users should care more about their privacy than companies do, and take proper actions to protect themselves by becoming and staying consistently knowledgeable on the current events, and corporate decisions that are being made across the board.

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Privacy and convenience are opposite one another on a scale, and the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. If you think about it, that’s how it’s always been. Since the dawn of time, we as humans have always had to rely on one another for something. You may have been a great hunter-gatherer, but you probably didn’t know how to prepare what you hunted or gathered, and the one who did, probably wasn’t equipped to go out and do the former. Take that same concept and apply it across generations. Our modern reliance on big tech is a direct evolution of that, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

Big tech like Google and Microsoft may be well-oiled, unstoppable ideas, and are certainly perceived as faceless, darkened heads on a screen, but the fact is that they’re comprised of human beings – just like you or me – who are trying to leave their mark on the world in a meaningful way by creating something awesome and innovating to solve a problem while feeding their families and keeping the lights on. You could technically program much of what Google offers if you’re skilled enough, but I’m sure you’d rather go out and experience life, take photos, enjoy time with your family, and work in your particular industry of choice. I may not like how much shoe manufacturer makes my shoes, but instead of making my own shoes, I’ll probably just switch brands.

Google has its share of mistakes, in this regard, and I certainly don’t fault people for writing “ditch Chrome” articles. However, let’s not forget that Microsoft has had over 20 years of its own ups and downs as a mega-corporation and during that time, many people have urged others to shift away from the company in favor of other products and services as a result. In fact, Microsoft’s bulky, complicated operating system and privacy concerns are a primary reason why Chrome and Chromebooks have become so popular today. I think that when a company takes action in a way that’s not favorable to some, those individuals immediately go to the opposite extreme end of the spectrum. In doing so, they miss out on all of the benefits of the end they just ran from because they’re understandably afraid or concerned.

Chromium Edge has value – it has some really cool features that Google Chrome has yet to adopt, but I believe that Chrome users can look forward to all of the things I liked about it, and more. The thing to keep in mind is that Edge and Chrome can, and in fact, will co-exist. Both development teams have been known to spur one another on toward innovation and often share excitement and features since they’re both working together toward an open web using the open-source Chromium source code – and that’s what’s important in the end.

What I’m saying is this – don’t listen to people who tell you to ditch Chrome for Edge or vice versa – choose what you feel is right for you. You can still use your Google account, it’s technically Chrome. Ultimately, the reason many of us choose Google and specifically Chromebooks is that the user experience is thoughtfully constructed, modern, and beautiful. Google is taking its time building out Chrome and Chrome OS and is attempting to reconstruct and modernize computing from the ground up. Rome was not built in a day, and it wasn’t built by faceless automatons. Let’s all learn to be a bit patient and forgiving as both companies sort through their mishaps. It’s perfectly fine to have a favorite browser, and I more than encourage being protective of your data, but let’s stop the vitriol in the process.

As Google and Microsoft attempt to build Chromium, a transformative and impactful piece of technology – yes, while making a profit – we can, in fact, enjoy it – we just need to make sure that we’re putting our privacy before convenience. In doing so, however, we also can not and should not avoid convenience altogether. Life is about connecting and collaborating, and though the pandemic has caused us to adopt a mindset of isolation, we must continue to strive toward a future where we’re all helping and protecting one another – forgiving each other’s mistakes and helping one another improve and grow along the way. This also includes our perception and treatment of the hardworking people behind these tech companies. The current state of Google and Microsoft’s relationship in regards to how they are collaborating on Chromium is a great example of this since both companies have a history of not working together. In the end, we must all evolve into compassionate, privacy-minded consumers who are patient and understanding of one another – because we only come out on top together.

Feature photo source: Niclas Illg on Unsplash



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