Somehow, Microsoft is the best thing to happen to Chrome

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What strange times we live in. Who’d have thought that I’d be writing an article on how Microsoft is the best thing to happen to Google Chrome? A few years ago the idea of Microsoft getting involved in an open source project would cause a mixture of laughter and dread.

You know… Microsoft, the foe of open source who had a CEO that once said that Linux was “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” The company that couldn’t make a decent web browser to save its life.

But, believe it or not, I really do think that Microsoft’s involvement has made Chrome a much better browser.


(Image credit: Pixabay)

Learning to love open source

First of all, Microsoft ditched its antipathy to open source a good while ago now, and it’s a now a platinum sponsor of the Linux Foundation, and in some metrics it’s also now the biggest open source contributor in the world.

Basically, since dropping its opposition to open source, and not only embracing it, but putting its money where its mouth is, the thought of Microsoft being involved with an open source project is no longer the stuff of nightmares. It’s proved to be a valuable contributor to the open source community already.

But how does this affect Google’s Chrome browser? Well, ever since Microsoft stopped using its own web engine, EdgeHTML, for its Edge web browser, and instead built a brand-new version that’s based on Chromium, it’s been contributing a steady stream of fixes and new features to Chromium – and those have not just been benefitting Edge, but Chrome as well.

The latest example of this is Microsoft finally fixing an issue where notifications for Chrome doubled up in Windows 10, and clicking the wrong one would fail to open up the website that was sending the notification in Chrome. It managed the impressive feat of being both annoying and useless.

However, Microsoft submitted code to the Chromium project that fixes the issue. While Microsoft fixing an issue that affects its operating system isn’t too surprising, there have been a number of other instances where Microsoft has made Chrome a better browser thanks to its input.

Lending a hand

I’ve complained before about how sick I am of Chrome being a massive RAM hog, and Microsoft has found a way to stop it gobbling up so much memory, while also draining less battery when run on a laptop, by preventing unnecessary disk caching when users watch videos.

A Microsoft developer also recently fixed a particularly annoying quirk in Google Chrome that can result in you accidentally losing your current tab. And there are many other examples.

OK, so all these fixes were primarily aimed at sorting out Chromium Edge, but the important thing is that they also improve a web browser people actually use.

For anyone who’s been frustrated by Google’s handling of Chrome, the fact that Microsoft has been bringing improvements to the browser is a strange – but welcome development.

I never thought I’d be celebrating Microsoft’s involvement in an open source project – but in this case, I’m very happy to be doing just that.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.