At Microsoft Inspire, the new Edge browser took center stage

Just as Azure has overtaken Microsoft's Windows Server platform, the new Chromium-based Edge Browser has taken center stage from Windows.

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Disclosure:  Microsoft is a client of the author.

In the new Microsoft, Azure has – to a certain extent – taken over the center stage from the company's Windows Server platform, and the new Chromium Edge Browser has taken center stage from Windows. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this result as the market rapidly turns from focusing on local hardware to using the Cloud as its primary place to do computing. 

As a result, each new browser update now feels a bit like what the old Windows refresh cycles used to feel like – but without the old compatibility drama. 

Microsoft Inspire took place this week, so let’s talk about the browser's new features, mostly focused on business users (now mostly working from home) that look compelling. 

Phishing and malware protection

During the event, Microsoft shared that two independent studies by NSS Labs ranked the browser No. 1 in terms of defending against Phishing and malware.  Phishing, in particular, has become an enormous problem during the pandemic. This exposure is because the usual protections – telling a coworker who used to sit across from you that you got an unusual mail from an executive – or just being able to tell whether  something came from inside or outside the company, doesn’t work so well when you are working from home. 

Phishing attacks have gone up astronomically, estimated at a whopping 667%, and it's thought the recent devastating Twitter breach was due to phishing.  Given the level of exposure and the realization that employees, particularly executives, are exposed at home, this is both a timely and critical feature.  

Collections bridging mobile and PC

I’ve started using the Edge browser on my smartphone as well, and collections, while handy on the PC, weren’t initially available on the mobile version. Collections help you organize things so you can find them again; I have several projects that this feature has helped me with, but that meant using my PC to get the benefit. One of the new updates allows you to have those collections on your mobile device, and since the browsers sync, I can now access those collections from home. Another addition: being able to add a note in collections, which saves you time if you forget why you put the element in the collection. 

Work-life switching

I don’t have this problem because I not only work from home, I think I work for myself (yes, I’m pretty sure I’m delusional on that last). But for most people, mainly while they are working from home, they need to flip between work and home modes. That means very different credentials and profiles. That fun profile you use when you're browsing the web and playing Xbox games isn’t going to play as well if you are working in Sharepoint.

With that in mind, Edge allows you to maintain a work and a play profile – and it will automatically prompt you to switch profiles when it sees you are moving between modes. This feature could also help with phishing because the profile people see on the web isn’t the profile you use for work. So even if they copy it and attempt to use it to fool co-workers via a phishing attack, it shouldn’t work.

That said, if you are also playing games with co-workers, all bets are off.  But, really, who does that? (I do recall a co-worker causing some trouble playing Star Trek on a mainframe years ago, so some things don’t change that much.)

Endpoint Data Loss Protection (DLP)

DLP is being released as a public preview, and it removes the need to load additional data loss protection software. I expect this was a feature that financial and government users wanted, but, given how aggressively some hostile states are looking for data illicitly, most companies should appreciate. Focused on complying with regulations and privacy, IT shops can extend their control over sensitive data when users access that data with this browser. 

That feature became available July 21. 

Wrapping up

The Chromium-based Edge browser has become my default browser. And while I still load Google Chrome as a backup, I find I only still use it to access Google services on occasion. Edge has become my default, and with these improvements, it should be on track to become the new corporate/government standard. 

Since this browser is still young and early in its development, I do wonder what is coming next. Of course, the big thing for me about this browser is that its foundation came from Google, making it a fascinating showcase of how much Microsoft itself has changed. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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