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Microsoft's Edge browser comes to MacOS, thanks to Google Chrome

But Microsoft plans to give its browser a different look than Google's Chrome.

Microsoft Edge for MacOS
Microsoft Edge for MacOS is available for testing.
Screenshot by Stephen Shanlkand/CNET

Microsoft released a test version of its Edge browser for MacOS on Monday, 16 years after competition from Apple's own Safari led it to stop developing Internet Explorer for the Mac.

Edge for MacOS is available on the Microsoft Edge Insider site, but so far only in the very rough Canary version that changes rapidly and isn't as deeply tested as the gradually more mature developer, beta and stable versions that it'll become.

The company has begun shifting Edge to Google's Chromium, dropping its own core software in favor of the open-source underpinnings of the Chrome browser. That move makes it easier for Microsoft to create versions of Edge for iPhones, Android phones and MacOS, not just for Windows. But it also makes it harder for Microsoft to differentiate Edge from Chrome.

Back when Microsoft was only building its old Internet Explorer browser for Windows, it optimized its browser for Windows-specific features for things like hardware graphics acceleration and font display. Now it's got a much broader set of computing systems to deal with.

On MacOS, that means Microsoft is trying to balance its own styling with what's native for Apple's Mac line. One piece of that will be support for the Touch Bar -- the slim touch-screen display that replaces the function key row on higher-end MacBook Pro laptops.

For example, it'll provide "useful and contextual actions through the Touch Bar like website shortcuts, tab switching and video controls, as well as enabling familiar navigation with trackpad gestures," Microsoft said in a blog post. "You will continue to see the look and feel of the browser evolve in future releases as we continue to experiment, iterate and listen to customer feedback."

The Touch Bar on Edge for MacOS currently shows a list you can swipe of favicons denoting your open website tabs. In contrast, Chrome shows buttons for controls like search and navigation by default. Safari shows website thumbnails, though it reveals the favicons when you open a new blank tab. Edge switches the Touch Bar to show autocomplete suggestions if you're typing in a text field. 


In the late 1990s, Microsoft feared browsers would provide a software foundation that undermined the power of its Windows operating system and fought hard against rival Netscape as a result. Now, with Microsoft trying to extend its relevance to other platforms besides its own, the tables have turned.

One part of Microsoft's push is an attempt to advance progressive web apps (PWAs), which rely on browsers to run but look and act more like native apps. Google spearheaded the PWA movement but has won Mozilla, Microsoft and other allies to the cause.

"As with our Windows preview builds, our new MacOS version also includes support for installable, standards-based progressive web apps," Microsoft said. "We're working to make PWAs feel at home alongside your native apps, so when installed they will appear in your dock, app switcher, and Spotlight just like a native app."