Back in December, Microsoft announced its intention to adopt the Chromium open-source project for the development of Microsoft Edge. This project has now become a reality, and if you’d like to have an early look at how Edge is evolving, Microsoft has already made its Chromium-powered browser available via its Dev and Canary release channels. Unveiled in 2015, Edge is already adopted by more than 4.5% of web users and is expected to gain market share over the coming years both among individual users and businesses.
According to Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, this switch was motivated by Microsoft’s ambition to “make the web experience better for many different audiences”. In other words, interoperability is at the heart of this move. By making their browser Chromium-based, Microsoft is no longer developing an entirely unique browser with a separate (competing) set of standards, or with specific and potentially not cross-compatible implementations of existing web standards. Intending to be active contributors to Chromium, Microsoft will be spending more resources on this collaborative project, instead of on a separate proprietary stack.
For users, this move translates to improved compatibility with websites across devices. For developers, this will greatly simplify work on many parts of the video workflow. For video platforms, it is yet another step towards the unification of a web landscape once plagued by political differences (take codecs and DRM, for example). For us at Streamroot, this is a game-changing move for yet another reason: for the first time, a Microsoft browser offers full WebRTC support.
An open-source project released by Google in 2011, WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) provides web browsers and mobile applications real-time communication (RTC) capabilities via APIs and therefore enables direct peer-to-peer video, audio and data communication, without the need to install plugins or download native apps. While WebRTC – and therefore Streamroot – is supported today by the vast majority of modern browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari, the addition of Microsoft Edge will allow Streamroot to offer our WebRTC-based peer-to-peer streaming solution to close to 100% of web users.
But it is worth underlining that even though this full support of WebRTC is new to Microsoft, this is not their first move towards real-time communications capabilities. Back in 2014, the company announced its support for Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC), an object-centric API for the development of WebRTC-based applications. However, while Microsoft’s ORTC was compatible with WebRTC implementations, it offered feature sets that were not necessarily the same as the other browsers on the market (WebRTC data channels – which Streamroot uses to exchange data via peer-to-peer – were notably absent from Microsoft’s ORTC implementation). As Edge will henceforth adopt the Chromium implementation of WebRTC, it promises to include the same features as Chrome, which is already widely used for video and audio applications – and Streamroot peer-to-peer.
While a public release date has not yet been set, we look forward to trying out the capabilities of this new Chromium-based Edge browser. This will surely shake up the browser market, especially in the corporate space, where the historically dominant Microsoft has begun to lose ground to Chrome and Firefox in recent years. As avid supporters of open source technology, we are really excited about this move that should allow a greater number of internet users to benefit from WebRTC-based video delivery solutions like our own.