Microsoft Edge vs. Google Chrome

A look at two of the hottest web browsers

Screenshot of Microsoft Edge in Windows 10

 Microsoft

Google Chrome is the reigning king of browsers, with the highest usage on both desktop computers and mobile devices. Microsoft Edge is arguably available on most machines because it's installed by default on Windows-based devices. Let's look at the main differences between these browsers.

Overall Findings

Microsoft Edge

  • By default, installed on all Windows-based devices.

  • Improved, faster rendering than Internet Explorer.

  • More stable both as a Windows application and when displaying web apps.

  • Supports more casting devices through the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and Miracast protocols.

  • Less compatible than its competitors.

  • Smaller extension library.

  • Unless you really like Bing, you'll need to update defaults.

Google Chrome

  • Open source and extensible.

  • Large extension library.

  • Most widely supported browser available, especially for consumer devices.

  • Cross-platform availability.

  • A bit of a memory hog.

  • Future of ad blockers uncertain as Google starts to inhibit them.

  • Separate download and installation on all operating systems but Android.

This article focuses on differences, but Microsoft Edge and Chrome are both still browsers and, as such, are more alike than different. In fact, in many cases, the choice to use one or the other is simply personal taste. For example, you can reasonably expect both Chrome and Microsoft Edge to:

  • Display your favorite websites and applications
  • Save the locations of those websites and apps as bookmarks
  • Give you the ability to have a variety of websites or apps open at the same time in separate windows or tabs
  • Keep track of the places you've visited in a history view
  • Allow you to use an "incognito" mode

The differences between the two browsers are in how they enable all this functionality. Let's touch on how each browser implements key aspects of the browsing experience, including their rendering engines, availability of extensions, defaults for features and other services, and compatibility with desktop and mobile platforms.

Rendering and Search: Dealer's Choice

Microsoft Edge

  • Built on the proprietary EdgeHTML rendering engine.

  • Default search engine is Bing.

Google Chrome

  • Built on the open source Blink rendering engine.

  • Default search engine is Google.

Chrome uses an engine called Blink, which is created from a base of an engine developed by Apple called WebKit. WebKit was itself an offshoot of an open-source engine called KHTML, which the Linux K Desktop Environment uses as its native browser.

The open-source software license of these iterations is what enabled Google to put together its own browser quickly and is likely part of the reason Chrome has its own open-source variant, called Chromium, meaning that other organizations can use this framework to create their own browser.

Microsoft Edge uses the EdgeHTML rendering engine, which is a continuation of the Internet Explorer rending engine.

The Edge Home Page Is a Combination of Microsoft News and Bing Search

If you've used Internet Explorer, especially versions 6 through 8, you may remember that it had a reputation for being finicky when displaying websites. A page that rendered correctly (though slightly differently) in Mozilla Firefox or Chrome may appear broken in Internet Explorer 6 and require special workaround code. So, Microsoft created a new engine called EdgeHTML that got rid of a lot of those legacy problems and was faster. This is the engine Microsoft Edge currently uses.

Extensions: Chrome Has More to Offer

Microsoft Edge

  • Offers many extensions in the Microsoft Store but tends to prioritize larger developers, making extensions from smaller developers harder to find.

  • Lack of backward compatibility with Internet Explorer limits the number of extensions available.

Google Chrome

  • The most extensive browser library available.

  • Browse and install extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

Extensions in Chrome enable users to install add-ons that introduce more features. You can easily browse and install them from the Chrome Web Store.

Extensions for Chrome Have Their Own Store, the Chrome Web Store

Chrome wasn't the first browser to come up with the concept of extensions, but it does have one of the most extensive libraries, with Google making it easy for developers to code and submit new extensions to its store.

Microsoft Edge also supports extensions and, like Chrome, has a section in the Microsoft Store where you can search for them. Many of the larger applications, like Evernote Clipper, are also present as Microsoft Edge extensions, but you may have trouble finding extensions from smaller developers or more than one option for a particular extension type.

You Can Find Edge Extensions in the Last Tab in the Windows Store

The selection is smaller in part because of Microsoft's switch from its traditional Internet Explorer browser to Microsoft Edge. There was no backward compatibility during this change, so developers had to recode their extensions all over again. It has taken a while for developers to catch up, and some likely abandoned support for Microsoft browsers altogether.

Default Settings: Depends on Which Environment You Prefer

Microsoft Edge

  • Default home page is a Bing search box with content from Microsoft News.

  • Default search engine is Bing.

  • Can display video output on any device that supports Miracast or the DLNA protocol.

Google Chrome

  • Default home page is Google.com.

  • Default search engine is Google.

  • Can display video output on a Chromecast device.

The two browsers' default settings differ, but you can typically change them. Chrome uses the following default settings:

  • Home Page — Naturally, the default home page for Chrome is Google. When you launch Chrome, you have quick access not only to Google's search function but also services like Gmail (if you have a Google account).
  • Default Search Engine — By the same token, when you type keywords into your browser's address bar, Chrome uses Google as its default search engine.
  • Casting — Many newer devices feature the ability to "cast," or display video output on another device. Chrome enables you to connect to a Chromecast device to display its output.

As you'd expect, Microsoft favors its own services for the Microsoft Edge browser:

  • Home Page — When you open a new tab or window, you see a page populated with stories from Microsoft News and a search box powered by Bing.
  • Default Search Engine — When you enter search terms into the address bar, Microsoft Edge uses the Bing search engine.
  • Casting — Microsoft Edge enables you to cast to any device that supports the DLNA protocol or Miracast. In this respect, it's actually more compatible with different types of hardware than Chrome is for sending media or mirroring your screen.

Compatibility

Microsoft Edge

  • Installed by default on Windows machines but also available for macOS, iOS, and Android.

Google Chrome

  • Runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS.

Chrome is one of the most cross-platform browsers out there. It's available for Windows, macOS, and on mobile for Android and iOS. It's even available on Linux

Microsoft Edge is installed out of the box on all standard versions of Windows. It's also available for macOS, Android, and iOS.

Final Verdict: Edge and Chrome Will Become More Alike as Time Goes On

Many of the differences discussed here are evident in current versions of Chrome and Microsoft Edge, but some of them will disappear before long.

Microsoft has decided to throw in the towel on EdgeHTML and other core components of Microsoft Edge and will instead create a new version of Microsoft Edge based on Chromium. That's right: Microsoft is going to build Microsoft Edge on the foundations of Chrome, meaning that key elements like the rendering engine will be identical, much to the delight of web developers.

What's likely to remain different are the connected services. For example, you'll probably still sync your bookmarks with your Microsoft account instead of a Google account, and Bing will likely be the default search engine for Microsoft Edge. That said, using a common platform will definitely make it easier for developers to create content and apps that are much more consistent across the major browsers.

At the end of the day, there's nothing keeping you from having both browsers, using whichever works better for a given website. But if you're looking to choose one, go with Chrome if you use a lot of web apps or if you're heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. If that doesn't appeal to you and you're using a Windows machine, Microsoft Edge is already installed, and it's a capable browser if you have concerns about Google's advertising activities.