Edge was originally released in 2015 as a direct replacement and refresh for Internet Explorer, which was rapidly losing market share among the world’s most popular web browsers. Edge Legacy, which used EdgeHTML, was a programming fork of Microsoft’s ‘Trident’ engine that had been used in Internet Explorer 11.
The new Edge, released in 2020 and based on the same Chromium ‘Blink’ browser engine as Google Chrome, has proved more popular – and as of January 2021 looks set to overtake Firefox as the world’s third biggest web browser.
Enterprise organisations still provisioning the legacy version as standard are advised to plan their deployment of the new Microsoft Edge with the following set of steps.
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Mozilla have released an urgent patch to version 74.0 of Firefox, notifying browser users around the world that it’s time to patch Firefox again.
The timing of the new patch, which also affects the ‘Extended Support Release’ (version 68.6) suggests that the latest update fixes a vulnerability which (at worst) may have been live in the browser since July 2019.
Mozilla’s official announcement from 3rd April categorises the impact as ‘Critical’, and states that ‘we are are of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw’.
The precise details of the security flaw have not yet been published, although we know that the issue refers to a ‘use-after-free’ function by which the browser frees up previously occupied memory back to the device – with online cybersecurity blogs speculating that any new contents of the relinquished memory may still have some level of access to the browser.
Community-led Mozilla, whose popular Firefox browser is still the World’s second-most popular desktop browser, suffered other critical security flaws as recently as January – when the US Department of Homeland security took the unusual step of instructing users to urgently update their browsers following the discovery of a vulnerability which granted potential access to the operating system.
Now it’s 2020, and in a world dominated by Google Chrome and mobile web browsing, Microsoft is trying again. Edge was re-launched this month, having been completely re-structured on Google’s open-source Chromium source-code.
Possibly the most frustrating thing for Microsoft is that there’s actually little wrong with Edge – at least as far as most users will recognise. But, beyond the snazzy new logo, is 2020’s new Edge worth your attention?
Some of Edge feels painfully similar – upon downloading, you’ll be immediately (and repeatedly) prompted to import favourites from your other browser (just in case your current browser is an organised place you inexplicably wanted to move away from to win a bet/to fulfil an ancient prophecy/because you work for Microsoft.)
However, Microsoft has clearly learnt some lessons – the choice of layouts (‘Focused’, ‘Inspirational’ or ‘Informational’) are worth investigating to dodge the msn.com-style assault on the senses, and make Edge feel more like a clean, distraction-free tool for daily use. The toolbar design also feels much closer to rivals like Chrome and Firefox: simple and easy to use.
Edge is quick too – performing well in tests and supposedly ‘optimised for Windows 10.’ Although hard to verify in true laboratory conditions, it’s easy to picture Edge delivering Office 365, Outlook.com and other Microsoft web-based services in an efficient manner, and it feels smooth. More importantly, by adopting Chromium, Microsoft have banished one of 2015 Edge’s demons: the lack of available app extensions that eventually finished Windows phone.
‘Immersive Reader’ Mode (similar to that in Office 365) can now be activated from the address bar and strips out on-page distractions, adverts and on-screen formatting for enabled web-pages. This is a simply brilliant and calming addition for reading through articles, and is sure to win plaudits from those concerned about accessibility.
Microsoft also appear to have given a little extra attention to business users – perhaps aware that although Google Chrome dominates Android’s mobile world, workplace computing remains a key area where people still use conventional Windows 10 devices in overwhelming numbers. Sharing preferences between devices is a repeated boast by rival browsers like Safari and Firefox, but Edge can now do this too.
Edge uses Bing search by default, but once signed into your Microsoft account can do some clever extras, such as amend your search results to define acronyms according to your organisation or industry. ‘Inking’ abilities that exist in Office 365 (eg: for taking notes in OneNote) are also extended to Edge for overwriting PDFs in-browser – allowing some simple tasks like signing a contract or filling in a form in legible handwriting.
If your system admin tinkers with Group Policy, it’s possible to turn on an ‘Internet Explorer Mode’ that renders legacy web-pages more accurately, without the pesky security holes that plagued Internet Explorer installations years beyond their supported date.
Sharing a code-base with Chromium allows Edge to borrow some of Chrome’s best media features – including screen-casting to Chromecast devices on display screens and similar. Edge is also allegedly the only browser on Windows 10 to support 4k Netflix – the kind of popular feature it’s hard to imagine Internet Explorer’s developers ever even considering.
In market share terms, Edge languishes with Firefox around 10%, hugely outgunned by the behemoth of Google Chrome at around 70% of all internet usage globally. Will that change? The next few months may reveal whether Edge can establish itself as something with more appeal.
Microsoft Edge (2020) stable-version is now available for PC, macOS, Android and iOS online here.
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The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have advised all Mozilla Firefox users to urgently update their browser versions, following discovery of a vulnerability that grants potential access to the operating system.
The unusual warning comes after Mozilla itself admitted being aware of ‘targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.’
Thousands of devices were left with broken browsers this week, after a Google Chrome experiment rolled out a hidden change to the world’s most-used browser.
Launched exclusively on ‘stable’ versions, the update left IT admins around the world puzzled at blank tabs that refused to load.
The test initiated a new WebContents Occlusion feature, designed to reduce Chrome’s device resource use for tabs while not currently being viewed – no doubt part of Google’s effort to address Chrome’s reputation for heavy resource usage and the ever-increasing pattern of users deploying more and more tabs during the shift to cloud services.
Online forums were suddenly filled with complaints from system admins fielding complaints from users and businesses all over the world – including US wholesaling giant Costco, who claimed their entire call centre environment was unavailable.
Larger organisations typically use device control to specify applications such as which browser an employer uses – which left System Admins at large enterprise businesses unable to simply direct users to an alternative browser, and furious that Google can roll-out unexpected changes to the platform.
Google has now issued an apology:
“After the rollout, we received reports that in some virtual environments, Chrome on Windows displays a blank page, which may be because Chrome mistakenly believes it’s covered by another window. As soon as we confirmed the reports, the feature was disabled.
“If Chrome on Windows is displaying blank pages, restart Chrome. On the next start, this feature will be disabled.
We also want to provide an explanation of how this change was rolled out. For some features, Chrome uses a gradual rollout process that happens more slowly than the main rollout. This allows us to quickly revert a change if we discover a bug that wasn’t uncovered in prior testing.
Once we received reports of the problem, we were able to revert it immediately. We sincerely apologize for the disruption this caused.”
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Firefox Quantum has been released to the world, in Mozilla’s biggest browser release since 2004.
Mozilla’s newest version of their flagship open-source browser project is by far the fastest ever version, with a visibly quicker, crisp style and 30% less memory usage than Chrome. In a subtle nod to Microsoft Edge’s fading promise, the project claims the new Browser will be fast ‘For Good.’
Lineal’s team have been impressed by how jaw-dropingly quick the new browser is. Strip back the home screen to nothing but a search bar and jumping to your first optimised web-page is like turning the page of a book – the kind of responsiveness Google say they want to one day achieve with Chrome.
And Firefox must stand up to Chrome. Google’s own web-browser has become the closest thing to an internet standard since competition rules finally punctured Internet Explorer’s dominance in the mid 2000s.
Not comprehensively challenged, sadly: Firefox Quantum moves Mozilla from using Yahoo! search by default, to using Google, where the search giant is even further ahead. Mozilla will also inevitably fall far behind Google on mobile, where it runs on under 1% of devices thanks in part to Google’s own development of the Android platform.
Nevertheless a super-fast, community-driven browser for the future of the Internet (even on desktop) really is a breath of fresh air.
Google search is by far the world’s biggest search engine (sorry Bing), but some of its more hidden Google games, apps and tools are lesser known – a reward for a lucky few.
Got a few minutes to kill? Here’s some of our favourites:
Google’s Chrome browser contains an offline game for when your browser can’t connect to the internet: T-Rex run charts the journey of a pixelated dinosaur in her/his quest to reach the right hand-side of the screen.
Press space bar to begin, jump over obstacles and try to set a new high score. Perfect for killing a couple of minutes when your router is re-starting.
Like Google Earth, Google Sky allows you to explore the heavens with useful overlays for learning the constellations, and zooming into high quality NASA photography of distant galaxies where available.
For extra wonder, search out the ‘Ultra Deep Field’ image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 – the furthest optical point humanity has ever seen.
For the creative-type, Google added this guitar widget to its hidden Google games in 2011. Move your mouse over the strings to compose a musical masterpiece, and record your jamming session with a handy record function.
Google Doodle Pacman
Google’s doodles have become an almost daily feature – celebrating everything from the World Cup, the birthdays of famous inventors and the anniversary of beloved 1980s classics.
The doodles normally link to a relevant search term intended to educate, but just occasionally games – such as a wonderful ‘Google-themed’ Pacman widget from 2010.
New research by security company Duo has suggested that as many as 25% of Windows PC users are running out of date versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Among Windows XP legacy users the problem is particularly acute, with more than half still running Internet Explorer 7 or 8, rather than upgrading to version 11.
Duo suggest this is putting thousands of PC users at risk of exposure to over 700 security risks caused by known viruses, malware or other online threats via their now outdated and unsupported web browser. In particular, un-patched exploits via popular third-party plugins such as video player codecs pose a likely danger.
Microsoft are currently offering Internet Explorer’s latest replacement, the superior Microsoft Edge, free to every user with a Windows 7 license who chooses to upgrade to their PC to Windows 10 before the 30th of July deadline.
Alternatively, users should consider the pushier update-reminding Mozilla Firefox, or Google’s automatically updating Google Chrome offering, along side a tried and trusted security software (such as the excellent ESET NOD32 Antivirus,) to ensure that the technology they use for private data transfers such as email and online banking, remain private.
Contact Lineal today for IT advice and support: 01271 375999 or email [email protected]