RIP Windows 7

Thanks and goodbye

RIP Windows 7. Hello Edge

- 3 minute read

This was the week we said thanks and goodbye to Windows 7. After more than ten years Microsoft have this week officially ended support for the venerable OS. Like many others, we have fond memories of installing it for the first time and enjoying how much less painful the experience was than with Vista.

Although Microsoft say Windows 7 will continue to function, they will no longer provide any updates or support for issues. Microsoft have been fairly blunt about this in their end-of-support article, which is understandable given Windows 10 has already been around for well over four years. Windows 10 may have had a bumpy birth, but it’s grown up a lot since. If you’re still relying on Windows 7, now really is the time to upgrade.

Also being shuffled out the back door is Microsoft’s Edge Browser, or at least how we currently know it. A new Chromium-based version of Edge has officially launched for both desktop and mobile devices.

What’s most notable about this is that the Chromium codebase is maintained by Google. So what convinced Microsoft to make such a call? Most likely was the realisation that its efforts to create a web rendering engine ultimately wouldn't be worth the investment. Too many websites render oddly in Edge because they have been coded for Chrome or Sarafi’s Webkit engine instead. This, for those that are old enough to remember, comes with a sense of irony as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (remember IE6 anyone), nearly broke the web because it demanded so much custom code from web developers.

So why keep Edge going at all? Microsoft will of course plug Edge into its extensive web ecosystem and bundle it with Windows. More interestingly though, Microsoft have taken a very different stance on web tracking to Google. With Apple taking Safari to new heights in terms of privacy, and others include Firefox and Brave pushing even harder, this is the browser wars all over again. But this time it won’t be about rendering, it’ll be about trust. Confused?

In 2020 the phone is king. When it comes to phones, many people still aren't really free to choose their browser. Apple goes further and locks down apps so they can only use it’s rendering engine. The same can be broadly said for Android, the vast majority of browsers are Chromium based.

Look at Microsoft’s decision with Edge in this light and it makes more sense. Microsoft is committing to using Android for its Surface phones, so it makes sense for it to have it’s own Chromium based browser to deliver its services on mobile. If you’re investing in Chromium on mobile then it makes a lot of sense to invest in Chromium on the desktop as well.

Unlike the last browser war which was all about who made the fastest or best browser, this browser war is about whose services you want and whose data policies you trust. Microsoft are betting that you'll prefer their more private, less tracked offerings. Given the rapid rise of privacy awareness in recent years, this is the kind of move we can expect to see more of.

All of which means more time for us developers to spend on designing experience and less time spent on the quirks of rendering engines. Happy New Year everyone.


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