Microsoft recently dumped the in-house EdgeHTML browser engine and switched the Edge browser to Google’s Chromium engine, joining the likes of Vivaldi, Opera, and Brave. Switching over to Chromium engine came as good news for Edge fans, as among other advantages, they could now access the Chrome Web Store’s vast library of extensions. It was a win-win situation for Microsoft, Google, and especially users. Well, apparently not so much. Google has started warning Edge users that Chrome is the more secure browser to install and use extensions from the Chrome Web Store.
First spotted by WindowsLatest, the Chrome Web Store now displays a warning when users are trying to install an extension on the Chromium-based Edge browser. The warning message appears as a banner just below the URL field and says “Google recommends switching to Chrome to use extensions securely.” But this is just a warning that users can choose to ignore or accept. If you are on Edge browser and see the warning message, you can still download the compatible extensions from the Chrome Web Store without any issue.
The warning banner also features a link to download Chrome and enjoy a more ‘secure’ experience of using extensions. Interestingly, Google is not scaring away users who are trying to install an extension on other Chromium-based browsers such as Vivaldi and Brave. It appears that Google is checking the user agent (UA) string to identify the make and build of the browser, and is singling out Edge to show the warning message. In case you don’t know, user agent is essentially an ID for Web browsers that tells the browser’s name, version, as well as the operating system it is running on.
However, user agent can also be used to selectively show content to users or affect the behaviour of a webpage based on the browser one is using. Google itself notes on its Chrome developer blog that user agent can be used to “customise behaviour or content to specific browser versions”. While that sounds benevolent, there is an ugly history behind its misuse as well. It appears that despite Edge switching to the Chromium engine, Google is still presenting its own Chrome browser as the better option. Although how exactly is Chrome ‘safer’ for installing extensions compared to Chromium-based Edge browser is still a mystery.
Of course, Microsoft itself isn’t blameless in a war of browsers, with the company in the past warning Windows 10 users about installing other browsers, to Start Menu promotions of Microsoft Edge, apart from setting Edge as the default browser on Windows machines.