02 Apr 2021 • 1 minute

On the Edge of Open Source Software

There is of course, a certain irony to Microsoft’s January 15th, 2020 release of Microsoft Edge. Specifically its loudly-beating, freshly-transplanted heart.

Microsoft once proudly rode Internet Explorer into the field of browser battle but I expect no-one at the company would’ve expected quite the controversy it caused over the years.

It’s odd to think IE was once an add-on to its Windows operating system. But, from a team of only six people, it was bundled as part of the Internet Jumpstart Kit.

Having reach a revenue-based licensing agreement with Spyglass Inc., whose code IE was based on, Microsoft cleverly decided to bundle IE for free with Windows.

As no revenue was generated, no royalties were paid. Spyglass tooled up and the subsequent lawsuit was later settled for $8 million.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft dragged IE through eleven major versions before embarking on a rebrand and a new product: Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer was officially replaced by Edge in 2015.

The true irony of this new release though is that Edge has a new engine. Blink is the low level rendering engine that powers Google Chrome.

Blink, and it’s family of related tools, Chromium, was originally developed by Google and is fully open source.

The Chromium family has enjoy contributions from all of tech’s titans including Facebook, Adobe, Intel and IBM.

Microsoft now joins the fold. They’re a contributor too, and to this free open-source engine, they’ve moved their primary web browser.

Linux is a cancer

I grew up Microsoft’s proprietary products and tools. It feels especially bizarre for such a key piece of software to be based on open source work.

Sure, the company has softened a lot over recent years and has embraced open source endeavors.

But it’s difficult to forget Ballmer stating “Linux is a cancer…” and building the business on the paradigm of “embrace, extend, and extinguish”.

At the end of the day, I’m happy that browser developers enjoy a common engine. They can concentrate on value-added services and user experience.

We developers love common standards and we’re definitely over worrying about whether one browser better supports our applications over another.

Across the board Microsoft are embracing more and more of the open source software culture. Along with Linux support throughout Azure, there’s Visual Studio Code – one of the most popular tools for coding in a number of languages.

Under Satya Nadella, the embrace is clearly ever-warming.

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