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Microsoft Edge should have been a big deal for Microsoft. Instead, it’s an awkward half-baked experience that most Windows 10 users don’t bother with. Over two years after Windows 10 and Edge’s release, the browser still isn’t seeing widespread use.
Why is this? We’ve identified five major problems that explain why Microsoft Edge still isn’t worth using as your main browser yet.
1. A Subpar Library of Extensions
Of all Edge’s problems, this is probably the one you’ve heard about the most. In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (over a year after its release), Edge gained support for extensions. We’ve taken a complete look at the list of available extensions — while it certainly has some useful ones, the paltry library simply can’t match what Chrome and Firefox offer.
At the time of writing, Edge offers 71 extensions. The Chrome Web Store doesn’t provide a number, but Google celebrated 8,500 extensions in 2010 after the service had been live for a year. We can certainly assume the Chrome Web Store houses thousands more extensions today. And while sheer quantity doesn’t beat quality, you’ll find many of the best Chrome extensions aren’t available on Edge.
Even the extensions Edge has aren’t all amazing. Of the 71, at least five of them are ad-blockers. Several others are intended for corporate users and only available if you sign in with a company account. Chances are, your favorite extension isn’t available on Edge. And that’s a game-breaker for many.
2. No Mobile Syncing Capabilities
Since Windows Phone/Mobile is essentially dead, Microsoft is focusing its efforts on Android and iOS apps. This includes a version of Microsoft Edge for those mobile platforms. Since Edge doesn’t really have anything unique to tempt Chrome or Safari users to switch, you’d think the one feature it absolutely needs is syncing with Windows 10.
But it can’t do that.
Currently, Edge is only available as a beta app on Android and iOS. And in its current state, tab syncing isn’t included. This means the most important feature that would make desktop Edge users want to install it on their phones is missing. You can send a tab from your phone to your PC, but it’s not an always-on sync.
Whenever you use Chrome on Android or iOS (or Safari on iOS), you open it up, sign into your account, and everything syncs. On your phone, you can view tabs that you have open on your laptop. Your passwords and autofill info are present for your convenience. But if you install Edge on your mobile, you’re working from scratch.
Hopefully, when Microsoft releases the final version of Edge for smartphones, it will include this important feature. But that could take months and only appeals to a small number of users — those whose main Windows 10 browser is Edge. Will Edge on iOS really tempt any Mac users to try it on their iPhone when Safari provides such a better experience?
3. Few Quality-of-Life Features
Let’s say you don’t use any browser extensions and don’t care about Edge on mobile. Even then, Edge lacks some basic usability features that have been in other browsers for years.
The Fall Creators Update (which is still rolling out to users), is adding several once-absent features to Edge, which makes us wonder why it didn’t have them in the first place.
These include fullscreen mode, pinning websites to your Taskbar, and editing the URL for a bookmark. Internet Explorer 11, which released in 2013, has all three of these.
But additional basic usage features from other browsers are still absent from Edge. You can’t middle-click the Back button to open the prior page in a new tab, or mute individual tabs. Clicking the info icon for a website provides very little security information. The Favorites and History slide-out panels don’t let you search or view the information using the whole screen.
And there’s no profile feature, which is an amazing productivity trick. Further, diving into Edge’s settings (even the hidden Flags menu) doesn’t offer you the fine-grained control that other browsers do.
All this adds up to a browser that feels unfinished. When Internet Explorer has basic features that your browser doesn’t, that’s a big problem.
4. Its Unique Features Don’t Set It Apart
So Edge can’t do a lot of what other browsers can. But what does Edge offer that’s different from every alternative? It has a few neat features, but none of them make a convincing argument for switching.
Cortana integration means that your virtual assistant can show you coupons for certain sites, show lyrics for music videos, and show you information on restaurants. This is all fine, but not particularly exciting. You have to sign in to Windows with a Microsoft account and use Cortana in the first place to take advantage of it.
The other big draw is page annotation. This lets you take a snapshot of a site and mark it up so you can send it to friends. It’s… okay. But does anyone really use this? It’s just as easy to take a screenshot in any other browser and annotate it. We can’t imagine anyone needing this feature so badly that they would use Edge just for it.
Microsoft Edge also supports ebooks, which is neat but, again, not an amazing feature. Surely most bookworms aren’t reading entire books on their computers — that’s what Kindles are for. It could prove to be useful for students, but there are other ways to read books on Windows.
Edge’s only other major feature is the Reading View, which strips everything but the essential parts of a webpage to make it easier for reading. It’s not unique to Edge, and can render some pages strangely, but it does have some utility.
Finally, Edge also has special touchscreen shortcuts and extra-large buttons when in tablet mode. We’ll give it a point for this, but we imagine even for the few people who regularly use a touch screen, this isn’t an essential feature.
5. The Stigma of Being Internet Explorer’s Successor
This isn’t a hard-and-fast problem with Edge, but it is a consideration in why it’s had a hard run so far. As you likely know, Edge replaced Internet Explorer (IE) as the default browser in Windows after a 20-year run beginning in 1995. While the last version of IE (Internet Explorer 11) is a passable browser, years of problems with IE have left sour tastes in users’ mouths.
Whether it was the dawdling update cycle for IE, lack of support for modern web standards, security problems, or being forced to use it at work, many people jumped ship from IE as soon as they could. Thus, even though Microsoft Edge promised a fresh start, that familiar logo and status as the default browser in Windows instantly turned many off. It’s an unmeasurable quality, but will probably never fade away.
— Andrew (@defecta) August 5, 2016
Speaking of which, Edge inherits one major problem from its predecessor: slow updates. Unlike other browsers, which see incremental updates roughly every month, Edge only gets feature updates when a new version of Windows 10 rolls around.
Take a look at Edge’s release history. Since the Anniversary Update in August 2016, Edge has barely gained any features. Microsoft waits for major updates to Windows, which happen roughly every six months, to add new features to Edge. This is a long time to wait. Compare this to Chrome, which adds features like individual tab muting in standard releases.
Microsoft Edge is similar, very isolated. So much of what made Internet Explorer a dragging nightmare was 3rd-party hooks trying to "help."
— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) November 25, 2016
Will Edge Ever Improve?
Edge isn’t in a great place right now. It lacks a solid extension library, doesn’t sync smoothly with mobile platforms, and lacks major features to help it stand out. It’s not a total piece of junk — there are some good reasons to use Edge, like its superior battery life on laptops. But there are problems that Microsoft can’t ignore if it wants people to take Edge seriously.
Since you’re not using Edge, check out the best browsers for Windows instead.
What is your biggest problem with Microsoft Edge? Would you use it if some of these issues were fixed? Tell us what you think about Edge in the comments below!
Image Credit: DragonImages/Depositphotos