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Edge

How to replace Edge as the default browser in Windows 10 — and why you shouldn’t

Microsoft has been struggling to get people to use its Edge browser for years. Even though the company made Edge the default browser in Windows 10, users left in droves, most of them flocking to Google Chrome — and with good reason. Edge was underpowered, had difficult-to-use features, and offered very few extensions compared to Chrome and Firefox.

Now Microsoft has launched a new version of Edge that’s based on the same technologies that drive Chrome. The new Edge is a much better browser, and there are compelling reasons to use it. But you might still prefer to use Chrome, Firefox, or one of the many other browsers out there.

Note that even if you’ve previously set up another browser to be your default, it might have been changed since then. When there’s a major Windows 10 upgrade, the upgrade recommends switching to Edge, and you might have inadvertently made the switch.

Whatever the reason, if Edge is your default Windows 10 browser, it’s easy to switch. to the browser of your choice. As I’ll show you, it only takes a few minutes.

The instructions in this article assume that you’ve installed the latest version of Windows 10 — version 1909, a.k.a. the November 2019 Update. If you haven’t installed it, the screens you see may vary somewhat from what you see here.

Why you might want to stick with Edge

The new Edge will be automatically delivered to most Windows 10 Home and Pro users via Windows Update, while enterprise users will likely get it only when their IT departments roll it out. If you’ve been using the old Edge as your default browser, the new one will be your default as well. If you’ve set another browser as your default, the new Edge won’t automatically override your preference — but like all browsers, it will ask if you want to make it the default.

It’s probably worth at least trying out the new Edge. The browser offers a clean design with intuitive features. The biggest drawback to the old Edge was its paltry selection of browser extensions, but because the new Edge uses the same rendering engine as Chrome, it can run Chrome extensions, which number in the thousands. And unlike Chrome, Edge offers tracking prevention, which blocks ad providers from tracking you from website to website.

In my tests, Edge also feels faster than Chrome and uses on average 14% less RAM. And it has some interesting features worth trying, such as the ability to launch a website as if it’s an app.

All that said, you might not be interested in trying out the new Edge, or you might try it and decide you still prefer Chrome, Firefox, or another browser. You may, for example, like Firefox’s ability to alert you when a website covertly uses your computer’s processor to mine cryptocurrency in the background, without your knowledge. Or you might like the way Chrome’s Omnibox (the place you type URLs and searches) can do things like perform math functions, convert currencies or answer questions such as naming the capitals of U.S. states without having to search the internet.

If you want to use another browser as your default, here’s what to do.

How to designate another browser as your default

The first thing you need to do to switch to another browser as your default is to install the other browser on your system. After that’s done, click the Windows 10 Start button and click the Settings icon that appears on the left-hand side of the screen. (It looks like a little gear.) You can also type “settings” into the search box and click the Settings result that appears at the top of the screen.

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In the Settings app, select Apps > Default apps. The Default apps screen appears. It shows the default apps for email, maps, playing music and videos, viewing photos, and more. To change the default browser, you’ll have to scroll down toward the bottom of your screen.

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Near the bottom of the screen, you’ll see Microsoft Edge under the “Web browser” listing. Click the Microsoft Edge icon and you’ll see a pop-up with a list of your installed browsers.

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(Side note: The pop-up also has a “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store” option, but if you click it, you won’t find Chrome, Firefox, Opera or any other browser you’ve likely ever heard of. Clicking it launches a search of the Windows App Store for the term “http,” which turns up a motley collection of apps, from file downloaders to an app that dims your Windows background to make it easier to view videos. There are also some little-known browsers listed, such as Super-Fast Browser and BlueSky Browser. Try them out if you like, but keep in mind that they’re Windows Store apps, and as a general rule, Windows Store apps are underpowered compared to desktop apps like Chrome, Firefox and Opera.)

Click the browser that you’d like to be your default browser. No need to restart; your work is done.

This story was originally launched in September 2017 and most recently updated in February 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Microsoft advisory shows whether Edge keeps up with Chrome’s patching

Microsoft has posted a security advisory that will record all updates to its new Chromium-based Edge browser, giving customers a way to monitor whether the company keeps up with Google’s patching of Chrome.

“This advisory will be updated whenever Microsoft releases a version of Microsoft Edge which incorporates publicly disclosed security updates from the Chromium project,” the Redmond, Wash. firm wrote on the support document.

As of mid-day Wednesday, only one listing populated the advisory. The item, dated Jan. 17, called out four CVE-identified vulnerabilities. (CVE, for “Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures,” is the most-used bug-naming standard.)

The advisory also noted the Edge version number that included the patches and the corresponding version of Chromium that also quashed the bugs. Because Chrome assumes Chromium’s version numbers without change – for some reason, Edge does not – the advisory was the first way Computerworld found to link a specific version of Edge to one of Chrome.

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This security advisory is supposed to list all Edge security updates. Comparing the version number of Edge to that of Chrome lets customers monitor whether Microsoft has kept up with Chromium’s/Chrome’s fixes.

Google released Chrome 79.0.3945.130 – the Chromium version listed in the advisory – on Jan. 16, saying here that the interim update included patches for 11 vulnerabilities. As usual, Google only identified four of the 11 by CVE. The quartet matched the four CVEs that Microsoft said were addressed in Edge.

Meanwhile, the Edge update, which Microsoft released Jan. 17 – one day after Chrome’s – was marked as version 79.0.309.68.

(That’s not the most current Edge; Microsoft updated the browser again on Jan. 23 to 79.0.309.71. However, there was no sign that that version patched any vulnerabilities. For a complete listing of Edge updates, users can steer to the Microsoft Update Catalog; Computerworld has pre-filtered the results to show only those for the Stable build of the browser.)

Edge 79.0.309.68 thus equals Chrome 79.0.3945.130.

Microsoft patched Edge just a day after Google refreshed Chrome, indicating that the former browser will not substantially lag behind the latter. If it had, attackers might have been able to use the interval to reverse engineer a patch, uncover the vulnerability and craft an exploit.

Still unknown is the size of the gap between Google promoting a new version of Chrome to the Stable branch and Microsoft following suit with Edge.

On Tuesday, Google released Chrome 80 – specifically, version 80.0.3987.87 – with new features as well as 56 security fixes. Google listed 37 of the 56 with CVE identifiers. Ten of the 37 were marked “High,” the second-most-serious ranking in Chrome’s four-step rating system.

As of 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, Microsoft had not updated Edge to reflect the Chrome’s shift to version 80. Computerworld will continue to monitor Edge and how, or even if, it keeps pace with Chrome.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Top web browsers 2020: Edge passes IE for the first time, 4-1/2 years after launch

After three months of gains, in January Microsoft’s browsers flipped to the “Decline” setting and shed user share. And for the first time, Microsoft’s newer browser, Edge, posted a larger share than the aged veteran Internet Explorer (IE).

According to data published Saturday by analytics company Net Applications, Microsoft’s January browser share – a combination of Edge and IE – fell by six-tenths of a percentage point to 13.6%. On its own IE dropped almost nine-tenths of a point – that browser’s largest one-month decline since September 2019 – but Edge’s increase of three-tenths of a percentage point nullified some of the older browser’s loss.

For January, IE recorded a user share of 6.6%, while Edge posted 7%. It was the first time since Edge’s mid-2015 debut in its original form that that browser bested IE. (Microsoft relaunched Edge on Jan. 15 as a browser built atop Chromium, the Google-led open-source project whose technologies also power Chrome.)

Although IE might again occasionally edge Edge in user share, the trend will almost certainly be IE’s continued decline. The browser will be supported on Windows 7 for three years and Windows 10 for likely as long, but it’s a dead end kept alive only to keep enterprise customers from revolting. Even Edge’s integrated “IE mode” will eventually be retired.

Meanwhile, Edge’s portion of Windows 10’s browser activity – a measurement Computerworld has touted as a better indicator of the browser’s mettle than user share on all personal computers – ended January at 12.3%, the same number as the month before, hinting that there was little new demand for the revamped Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10, or the other platforms (Windows 7, Windows 8.1, macOS) that it runs on, for that matter.

Edge’s user share performance will be worth watching in 2020, as Microsoft has staked everything on the all-Chromium clone of Chrome, what with IE relegated to a legacy role and the original Edge a complete flop. Going for the new Edge: Microsoft’s reputation in supporting its software in the enterprise, primarily through its management chops. Against it: Chrome’s dominance in corporations, unequal management be damned, and strangely enough, Microsoft’s odd decision to force Chrome in Office 365 environments to default to Bing as its search engine.

If Microsoft perseveres – resistance has mounted, with users and IT administrators denouncing the decision – and weds Chrome to Microsoft Search for Office 365 tenants, it’s annulling one of the most obvious reasons enterprises would adopt Edge.

That just seems odd.

Firefox slumps to share low not seen since 2016

In January, Firefox gave up two-tenths of a percentage point of user share, sliding to 8.1%, the lowest mark since August 2016.

Last month was the eighth straight that Firefox’s user share was lower than 9 percentage points, also a record. (Firefox had a four-month slump in the summer of 2016, but it bounced back, climbing to 13% before it again started the decline that continues.)

Nor is the forecast anything but depressing for Mozilla. That prediction – based, as always, on the 12-month average of changes – now has Firefox slipping under 8% as early as April and falling to 7% by September. Both dates are sooner than the forecast of a month ago because of the January dip.

That’s the last thing Mozilla needs at the moment. It’s 2018 finances showed slightly greater expenditures than income. More recently, the organization admitted it had failed to make its revenue goals, which had included significant subscription moneys, and laid off 70 employees.

Firefox-related subscriptions can’t save Mozilla if Firefox has fewer and fewer users.

Can anything unseat Chrome?

Chrome turned it around – somewhat – in January, adding three-tenths of a point to its user share to end the month at 66.9%. (Ironically, that was the same number Chrome hit in February 2019.)

The small gain put an end to a three-month stretch of losses, a first for Chrome. It also softened the impact of Chrome’s 12-month downturn so that Computerworld‘s forecast now predicts the browser stays about 66% well through this year and all of next. Without considerably more turbulence in Chrome’s share movement, there’s no chance Google loses its top-of-the-heap spot.

Considering the weakness of Firefox, the only viable threat to Chrome has to be Edge, Microsoft’s attempt to supplant the leader with, well, the leader’s step-sister.

Safari’s explosive growth? Yeah, that didn’t happen

And here we thought that Apple’s Safari was making a huge comeback on the Mac. Not so, said Net Applications.

“Due to changes made to the user agent in iPadOS 13, iPads were identified as macOS devices,” the California metrics vendor wrote on its website. “This change propagated progressively from September to December and required an adjustment to the data in that timeframe.”

In other words, by mistakenly tallying iPads running iPadOS 13, which launched in September, as macOS-powered devices, Net Applications overestimated not only the share of macOS but also of anything running on it, like Safari.

In Safari’s case, the differences between the contemporaneous shares and those recently adjusted to remove the iPadOS data were dramatic. In December, for instance, Net Applications had pegged Safari’s user share as 6%.That month’s adjusted share: just 3.8%.

The other months from September on showed similar variance between original and adjusted shares. November’s 5.3% (reported at the time) fell to 3.6% (adjusted by eliminating iPadOS); October’s 4.8% became 3.4%; and September’s 4.4% sunk to 3.4%.

In January, Safari added another five-tenths of a percentage point to climb to 4.2%, meaning that during 2019 Safari grew by less than one-tenth of a point, not the gargantuan-in-comparison 2.3 percentage points Computerworld reported a month ago.

Frankly, the very large gains by Safari should have raised eyebrows and questions. Instead, Computerworld posited that Safari’s growth “demonstrated that Chrome can be vulnerable, at least in some spaces.”

How naive.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people run to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to measure browser activity.



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FAQ: What the new Edge offers the enterprise

Two weeks ago, Microsoft launched its reincarnation of Edge, the born-again browser based, not on the company’s homegrown technologies, but ton hose created by Chromium, the Google-centric, open-source project whose code powers Chrome.

Although it will likely deny it, Microsoft went all-in on Chromium because its own browser – browsers, really, since Internet Explorer (IE) is, believe it or not, still a thing – was a shadow of its former self, reduced to minor player status in the battle for share.

But by becoming a Chrome clone, Edge has a shot at a comeback. Microsoft will pitch Edge to its most important customers – commercial organizations – as the alternative to Chrome. It’s just like Chrome, the message will go, but integrated with other Microsoft wares, notably Office 365. Just as important, Microsoft will say, managing Edge can be accomplished using the same tools, including group policies, that IT already uses to service Windows and Office 365.

Which is why it’s time to answer important questions about exactly what Edge brings to the enterprise.

(Computerworld will be adding to this FAQ or creating sequels as necessary to account for overlooked or brand new Edge-in-the-enterprise tools.)



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FAQ: Microsoft’s new Edge explained

More than a year after Microsoft waved the white flag, saying it would scrap Edge’s rendering engine and replace it with Blink, the engine that powers Google’s Chrome, the company has now delivered its reborn browser to the public.

Kudos, then.

But the result? That’s still up for grabs. Although there was little downside to the radical shift to Chromium – Internet Explorer had long been on legacy life support and Edge was at a near-death 4% user share – it’s vastly unclear whether the switch to Chromium will save Microsoft’s browser bacon.

(It may be just as unclear a year from now, for even though Edge now boasts a share of nearly 7%, much of that growth stemmed from Windows 10’s gains, not the browser’s. We’ll be keeping tabs on Edge’s share over the coming year.)

Microsoft is hoping to snap up some new users by getting those now running Chrome on Windows to reconsider. We’ll see how that works out. But now that Edge has gone live, it’s time to answer important questions about the world’s newest browser remodel.

Why did Microsoft replace its own technologies in Edge with Chromium?

Microsoft’s sticking to its original answer. “A little over a year ago, we announced our intention to rebuild Microsoft Edge on the Chromium open source project with the goals of delivering better compatibility for everyone, less fragmentation for web developers, and a partnership with the Chromium community to improve the Chromium engine itself,” Joe Belfiore, the top Windows executive, wrote in a Jan. 15 post to a company blog.

More than a year ago, when Belfiore announced the revamp, he cited the same three altruistic motivations.

[ Review: Microsoft’s new Edge browser: Third time’s the charm? ]

Although there’s no evidence that Microsoft wasn’t sincere, Belfiore’s trio certainly weren’t the only reasons. It’s just as likely that Edge’s dismal adoption rate – used on just 10% of all Windows 10 PCs when he declared the decision, 12% in December 2019 – and Chrome’s overwhelming lead (67% of all personal computer-based browsing last month) were why Edge went Chromium. Other justifications may have included an expected decrease in Microsoft’s engineering head count, increased revenue from Bing if Edge’s share expands (Belfiore mentioned Bing on Wednesday) and a faster release cycle than the company could produce on its own.

How do I get the Chromium Edge?

If you want Edge immediately, you’ll need to download it manually from this site. Versions for Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10 are available, as is Edge for macOS.

Users of PCs powered by Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro that are not managed by an IT staff will be automatically upgraded to the new Edge via Windows Update. Such upgrades will not begin immediately – Microsoft said “in the coming weeks” – and will be distributed in stages, as is Microsoft’s habit, rather than all at once. (The practice lets Microsoft turn off the spigot if the upgrade goes sideways on, say, some systems, before afflicting the entire Windows 10 user base.)

It’s probable that others – workers whose PCs are handled by IT, for example – will be blocked from manually upgrading by group policies deployed to their machines.

What happens to the old Edge when the new ‘full-Chromium’ version is installed? What happens to Internet Explorer (IE)?

The old Edge is scrubbed from the PC. “When you install Microsoft Edge on an up-to-date Windows 10 device, it will replace the previous (legacy) version on your device,” wrote Kyle Pflug, a senior program manager on the Edge developer experience team, in a separate blog post.

Before the old Edge is deleted, its bookmarks, passwords and some settings are automatically migrated to the new Edge.

As for IE, it’s staying put.

Is Chromium Edge a straight-out clone of Chrome?

No. But put them side by side and it’s tough to tell them apart.

Although the look-and-feel, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), of Chrome and Edge may seem alike at first glance (or second or third for that matter), Microsoft has already staked out differences under the hood. Edge, for instance, already sports some anti-tracking defenses; only recently did Google say it is on a two-year plan to equip Chrome with something similar.

What about Windows 7? Does Chromium-Edge run on that? Or Mac? How about macOS?

Yes, Edge now runs on Windows 7. And macOS. Also, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, for the three or four of you out there still on that debacle of an OS.

Because there was no earlier Edge on those platforms, there’s nothing to remove when the new one lands. Microsoft has said nothing about automatically adding Edge to Windows 8/8.1, the only operating systems which connect to Windows Update. (Windows 7 exited support Tuesday, Jan. 14.) Anyone who wants Edge on a personal computer running anything, but Windows 10 will thus need to grab the browser themselves.

Can Edge run add-ons available for Chrome?

Yes.

Edge has its own add-on market, reached by selecting Extensions from the menu at the right of the address bar (the three horizontal dots), but it can also install those at the Chrome Web Store. There, the process is identical to that with Chrome itself, although users will have to one-time-approve that Edge may install extensions from other – read non-Microsoft – outlets.

Isn’t Windows 7 retired? Will Microsoft really support Edge on that out-to-pasture OS?

Yes, but for how long we don’t know. “We’re going to continue to support Windows 7 users with the new Microsoft Edge,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email reply to when the company would half that support.

Chrome has already promised to keep patching Chrome on Windows 7 until at least July 15, 2021. Microsoft would be foolish to do the same before Google, so consider that date as the earliest it would drop support.

Another possible termination date would be Jan. 10, 2023, the end of Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates (ESU) support for Windows 7. Since businesses pay for ESU, Microsoft will patch Edge on the machines covered by the deal. And since it has to craft the fixes for ESU customers in any case, it could just as well share them with everyone running the browser on Windows 7.

How often will Microsoft upgrade full-Chromium Edge?

About eight times a year. Or once every six to eight weeks, depending on, not Microsoft, but Chromium.

Edge, like Chrome, will refresh on or near Chromium’s schedule. Developers working the Chromium project branch the code – lock down the changes by saving the build as a separate instance for the testing, bug fixing and polishing that leads to a stable release – on this schedule for the first half of 2020. In turn, that leads to Chrome releases on dates up to 10 weeks later.

Chromium 80 Branch: Dec. 5, 2019 Release, Chrome 80: Feb. 4, 2020

Chromium 81 Branch: Jan. 30 Release, Chrome 81: March 17

Chromium 82 Branch: March 12 Release, Chrome 82: April 28

Chromium 83 Branch: April 23 Release, Chrome 83: June 9

Microsoft hasn’t committed to copying Chrome’s release calendar – Edge 79, which debuted this week, arrived five weeks after Chrome 79, for example – but it most likely will come close. Computerworld expects Edge to quickly narrow the gap and before the year’s half over, deliver Edge on the same day as Chrome.

How will Chromium Edge be updated?

Through the usual Windows channels, which for consumers and small businesses means Windows Update. Larger organizations will be offered Edge updates via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and can also dole them out using Configuration Manager or Intune. (On macOS, IT must create plist files, which can be distributed through Intune or Jamf, the latter the de facto management platform for Macs in business or education.)

Because Microsoft has not yet clarified Edge’s release schedule – most importantly, whether it will mimic Chrome’s calendar – it’s unclear whether Microsoft will hold Edge updates until the next available Patch Tuesday or simply issue them on its own timetable.

Relying on Patch Tuesday would insert yet another update into Microsoft’s crowded schedule; Windows 10 has as many as four each month already. On the other hand, loosing updates on just any day runs counter to customer expectations that refreshes come at designated moments during the month.

Can we pilot Edge using a preview – like the Beta or Dev builds – on systems which have the stable Edge already on them?

Yes.

Like Chrome, Edge comes in four builds, in increasing order of stability and polish: Canary, Dev, Beta and Stable. One or more of the first three can be installed on personal computers already hosting Stable.

Microsoft even cast the multiple builds as a way around problems users encounter. “You can mitigate the risk of testing for users who have opted to install a pre-release channel,” a support document stated. “For example, if you have a user who’s using the Beta Channel, and there’s a problem, they can switch to the Stable Channel and continue working.”

The Stable and Beta builds are refreshed approximately every six weeks (meaning that as Edge 79 went live in Stable, Beta was promoted to version 80); Dev and Canary are updated weekly and daily, respectively (both of them are on version 81).

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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