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Developing on the Edge

Let’s start by stating the obvious; web design and development is an industry that is in a constant state of flux. Technology moves so quickly that designers and developers are always fighting to keep up with the latest trends, to make sure websites are as user-friendly and attractive as possible.

The launch of the new Microsoft Edge browser is set to be a major change for web designers and developers all over the world, with the technology giant finally replacing one of its best known products, Internet Explorer. But how will the release of a major new browser affect the industry?

Project Spartan

At the recent Microsoft Build conference, the name of the company’s new web browser was finally revealed – Microsoft Edge. The browser had previously been talked about under the codename Project Spartan, with the industry rife with rumours about what the browser’s name could be. Among the key features of Edge is the addition of Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana, an inclusion web developers will be excited about taking advantage of in the future. Designers will also be looking forward to getting to grips with Edge’s new rendering engine, which feels fast and innovative. Edge is Microsoft’s first major effort to work within the widely-accepted internet standards, and the industry has been waiting for this moment for a long time.

Cross-browser compatibility

The trauma of IE6 has left an indelible mark on the web design and development industry, and as such, Edge will have to be a huge leap forward for Microsoft to be forgiven. Cross-browser compatibility is one of the areas where the technology company is making great strides, which will be welcomed at long last. Microsoft is not renowned for making its products easy to use alongside other software by rival firms, but there are signs the company’s rigid approach is finally softening. Edge allows users to port their extensions over to the new browser from the likes of Chrome and Firefox, which should make the transfer a lot more straightforward than many had feared. Rendering is closer to Chrome and Firefox than IE was in the past, which is likely make life a lot easier for web designers and developers in the coming years. As Edge becomes embedded within the ecosystem there should be more compatibility and flexibility across the sector.

How will Google, Apple and Mozilla respond?

Edge is an innovative piece of kit, and Microsoft’s rivals – Google, Apple and Mozilla – will all have to respond to the Project Spartan browser. With users able to take notes on Edge, as well as write and doodle directly on webpages, Edge feels like a major leap forward for what a web browser can do. It also has a built-in reading list. One of the most exciting arrivals is EdgeHTML. The new rendering engine has been designed to drive up standards in web development, and research suggests CSS support in Edge already represents a solid progression compared to IE11. Edge is targeted at the mobile web market, which is becoming increasingly vital for designers and developers. IE is believed to have around a 56 per cent share of desktop browsing, but Microsoft has been left behind in the mobile web arena. This is the direction the industry is moving in, and Google, Apple and Mozilla will all have to come up with their own ways to keep up with the trend. For users, the release of an innovative new web browser with a lot of exciting new features can only be a good thing. How the web design and development industry embraces the launch of Microsoft Edge remains to be seen.

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