Microsoft's campaign to popularize Edge seems to be paying off, but is it?

Microsoft's campaign to popularize Edge seems to be paying off, but is it?

Microsoft's push to lure users into the proprietary Edge browser seems to be working, at least in one important traffic metric.

There has been a sustained effort by Microsoft to promote Edge since its relaunch in January 2020, and figures provided to TechRadar Pro by SimilarWeb attest to that: Views to the browser's download page increased that month by more than six million and a quarter compared to December 2019, from 228.644 to 6.524.646.

There was another spike in May 2022, with an increase of nearly a million views over the previous month, possibly due to Microsoft's April 2022 announcement that Edge would support VPN use.

against competition

Anyone using Windows machines or Microsoft apps will be aware of constant prompts to use Edge, with links to the download page accompanied by promises of faster performance with proprietary services like your email provider Outlook.

The company has certainly focused on integrating these services into the browser, but despite these efforts, Microsoft Edge pales in comparison to Google Chrome and Apple's Safari in terms of overall usability.

inner edge

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Although SimilarWeb was unable to provide download metrics for these browsers (their respective privacy policies preclude the collection of such data), it is well known that these rivals dominate the browser space by a wide margin (opens in a new tab).

However, Edge is gaining ground on Mozilla's Firefox, once one of the most popular browsers in the world. Between May and September 2022, Edge consistently outperformed Firefox in the number of download page views, averaging XNUMX million more than its rival.

In fact, when looking at confirmed downloads, the popularity of Firefox seems to have dropped significantly. Its global monthly average of confirmed downloads between October 2019 and September 2022 was just under 60.

On this front, it was vastly surpassed by Opera (2.312.387), which has grown in popularity in recent years, perhaps due to its free built-in VPN, browsing feature that continues to gain traction among general users.

The anonymous Tor browser also surpassed Firefox, with a monthly average of 1.046.939 confirmed downloads. In fact, the only browser in the data that performed worse than Firefox was Brave, which averaged just over 30,000 confirmed downloads during the period.

Tor's relative success speaks to growing concerns about online privacy as users become more aware and even suspicious of Big Tech's often relentless collection of personal data. Indeed, according to a recent survey conducted jointly by Opera and the ad filtering company Eyeo, more than 80% of consumers are willing to switch browsers if it means improving their privacy.

Make your way to success

It seems that Microsoft Edge hopes to emulate the success of Safari and Chrome by becoming the default browser for many users. The problem is that these browsers have the advantage of being tied into each of your company's vast ecosystems – Microsoft doesn't have the same control. At the moment it is trying its best to make it the default browser for Windows 11 users, but there are few currently.

The company, however, seems to continue to cultivate its own ecosystem. With PC sales plummeting and, more worryingly, revenue from its core Windows OEM business plummeting, it appears the operating system giant is turning in other directions. Its cloud services such as Azure and Microsoft 365, as well as the Teams video conferencing platform, are successful in the business sector, but for the general public, Microsoft again often finds itself overshadowed by its two biggest rivals.

Also, Microsoft is virtually non-existent in the mobile market, which made Apple and Google successful. With mobile devices ubiquitous around the world, almost all Android or iPhone, users are once again tied to their systems and software, including their proprietary browsers. Microsoft's entry into the mobile market is all but dead as it failed to get off the ground at all.

And then there's the difficulty of switching browsers, as users have all their usernames and passwords stored, all the extensions and settings they've tailored to their personal preferences, built over the years and integrated into other services. If you're a Safari or Chrome user, why the hell would you want to upgrade to Edge now?

The same goes for anonymous browsers. Despite the aforementioned research from Opera and Eyeo, it appears that their optimistic results have not played out in the real world.

But if the lesser trend of using anonymous browsers takes off, then Edge will hang out to dry. The browser's record in protecting user privacy is no better than its main rivals, and the same is true of Microsoft in general, and Windows 11 also receives criticism for its invasive practices.

So Microsoft Edge seems poised to establish itself in the default browser space, embracing the same promotional tactics as its rivals before it. If we only look at the download page views, it seems that Edge is gaining momentum. Yet despite the growing numbers, Edge's adoption rates pale in comparison to the big two. If Microsoft really wants to support them, it's going to need a much more compelling reason to get users to switch than to work a little better with Outlook and some business apps.