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I Installed Microsoft Edge for Linux So You Wouldn’t Have to and Alan Pope is Basically Using ‘MSN Explorer with Chromium’

Reprinted with permission from Ryan Farmer.

MSN Explorer

(Meanwhile, on Alan Pope’s computer…MSN Explorer rides again. Now with Chromium)

I Installed Microsoft Edge for Linux So You Wouldn’t Have To.

Alan Pope recently wrote a post about problems with Web browsers. Rather than to sit down and realize that all the features he claims Microsoft Edge has are in Brave, or part of Chromium and in all Chromium-based Web browsers, he chose to use “MSN Explorer with Chromium”. Microsoft Edge for Linux.

Windows users who were around more than 20 years ago probably got a glimpse of MSN Explorer. It was horrid. It was a platform for steering people to the MSN portal, and it looked cartoonish, cheesy, and tacky. (And it still exists, apparently.)

When I installed Microsoft Edge on my other laptop through Flatpak for a moment, I noticed it had gotten even worse than the last time I saw it, on Windows.

There are ads, “features” which basically do little more than route you to more ads, as well as “online shopping crap”, and “Bing Chat” which is a boring lobotomized chat bot that people are losing interest in quickly, so Microsoft stapled it to Edge in a sidebar.

The whole thing just screams “Consumertard” or “Someone’s feeble old grandmother that doesn’t know what a good browser is”.

Brave, on the other hand, gets cooler the deeper you dive into it.

Brave has actual features that protect your privacy. Unlike Edge, which is designed to violate it and shove trash in your face.

Microsoft Edge’s usability is quite low, due to all of the useless visual clutter, to the point that even opening a new tab feels pretty heavy.

It was fairly clear to me every time I opened this program on any computer that the only real goal Microsoft seems to have for it is to rename features that are going into other browsers anyway, or make noise about minor features which end up in other browsers. This includes vertical tabs. But also what Microsoft calls “Sleeping Tabs”.

Essentially, “Sleeping Tabs”, as Microsoft Edge calls them, or the “Memory Saver” as Brave calls it, is designed to keep memory usage lower by suspending older tabs you haven’t used in a while.

Firefox based browsers have this too. Before the browsers had it, you could get extensions that did it.

In Brave you can simply search the Settings for “memory”, and flip “memory saver” to “on”. In Firefox, you can go to about:config and search “browser.tabs.unloadOnLowMemory” and double-click it to “true”. You can also exempt some domains from being suspended in case you run off and leave form data in them you’re worried about, or have a browser application running in them.

Firefox-type browsers have a different strategy for older tabs. They don’t unload any until the system starts to run low on memory, and then they move idling tabs out of the way to help keep your computer running.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a handy feature, but other browsers do it too. So to imply that other browsers don’t have it when they all do is disingenous. Opera has it, Vivaldi has it, I think Chrome does too.

On Windows in particular, Microsoft has done some questionable things to save memory that have been rejected by Google for Chromium, because they slow down the browser’s performance and increase its CPU usage, and Google moved to other methods that apply more generically to all operating systems.

On Microsoft’s SegmentHeap patch, Google engineers had this to say:

“The CPU cost (10% slowdown on speedometer 2.0, 13% increase in CPU/power consumption) is too great for us too keep” Brue concluded.”

If you look at the memory usage of Edge and Brave, the two are really quite comparable, with Brave coming in slightly under Edge. At least that’s how it looked on one of my Debian systems.

It’s pretty obvious that memory optimization work has been a much more serious undertaking on Chromium browser than on Firefox, but I still remain skeptical of non-Brave Chromium browsers because Google is sabotaging the privacy extensions.

Microsoft Edge has “features” that violate your privacy. So many that in 2020, it was shown to be the least private browser most Americans are likely to come into contact with.

It sends everything to Microsoft down to your keystrokes and what sites you visit and which files you download, ostensibly for “safety” reasons. (They disguise this as “features”, like typo corrections that require contacting a remote server.)

The only browser that was worse was “Yandex Browser”, where a data leak from Yandex shows that the Russian Government has backdoors into practically everything the company makes. The Russian government is so despotic that they don’t even try to respond to it or deny it because they don’t have to. Naturally, Yandex Browser has also been packaged by Flathub.

Other browsers, such as Firefox, and to a greater extent, LibreWolf, typically disable this or offer some way to use “Google Safe Browsing” to inspect this data using a local cache of hashed values which limits or totally eliminates data being sent to Google, and Brave proxies any such network requests so that you never interact with Google to stay safe online.

Whereas, Microsoft Edge can only fairly be described as a “Keylogging Trojan Horse” that tells Microsoft about all your Web activity, including those naughty or embarrassing sites, and stores them on a Microsoft server, to be picked over to sell ads, and for purposes that can only be guessed at.

Using Microsoft Edge is therefore sort of like being an inmate at Stateville Correctional Facility in Illinois, where the guard house can look into any particular cell whenever it wants to.

Only, Edge goes further and records this so that a machine can analyze your browsing data, to sell creepy ads that follow you around, and share it with the government and “partners”, whoever those are.

I put it in a Flatpak temporarily on a tertiary machine specifically so that I could remove some Microsoft Account data.

(I have an Outlook Mail account, which I only give out to sites that want to spam me later with newsletters and crap. Let Microsoft store the garbage.)

I don’t believe I ever did much in Edge, but when I briefly used Windows on this machine while Linux support was coming along, it may have grabbed something, because Edge is also a password stealer (Bruce Schneier) from other Web browsers.

Schneier also pointed out that Windows and Edge display “smartphone app” behavior, where they constantly ask to do the same bad thing until the user accidentally, or in frustration, ends up allowing it.

On some occasions, Edge has grabbed people’s history and passwords out of other browsers while they were setting up Windows, even if they told it not to do that.

When I was done with it, I deleted the Flatpak and erased its configuration folder under .var/app.

Microsoft makes it a process to wipe your data from their sync server if you want to stop using Edge.

To accomplish this, you basically have to trick it.

There’s a button called “Reset Sync”, but they hide it behind something you have to click on in the Sync page under Settings. It’s really meant to be used to reset your Sync system if there’s an error on Microsoft’s server and it’s not syncing with other copies of Microsoft Edge.

Classic Microsoft, instead of even trying to fix the bug, they have something that whacks the thing that’s malfunctioning and then tries to upload all of your data out of the local program.

So what you do is, you go down about 15 toggles for syncing certain types of data, and turn them all off, then you click “Reset Sync” and once the server is cleared, it will update with all the types of data you want to sync, which is now hopefully nothing, and the server should therefore have nothing on it (but who knows what they keep).

To test this, I wiped .var/app’s subfolder for Microsoft Edge with the browser closed, reopened it, signed in, and verified that logging into Sync pulled in nothing.

On top of all of the spyware, ads, and visual clutter in Microsoft Edge, I generally find that the browser is just so “noisy” in its constant efforts to get your attention on something that makes money for Microsoft, or screens “bribing you” with Microsoft points and “free” access to some of their products only if you use Edge and sign into it, that it makes it flat-out impossible to even focus on the Web pages you’re trying to visit.

Even attempting to turn this stuff off is difficult to document, and Microsoft leaves “breadcrumbs” for it everywhere so it is likely to be accidentally turned back on later.

I can’t imagine a person with a condition that makes it difficult to focus trying to use Edge, or how a person with disabilities is supposed to use it when it has stuff that pops up everywhere shouting that you need to use “Office 365” and “Xbox” and “Microsoft Points”.

The New Tab page is bad enough. By default, it’s MSN junk “curated” and written by chat robots.

In summary, Microsoft Edge is so unpleasant to use that a person that’s become accustomed to another Web browser that makes it easy to focus, like LibreWolf, Brave, GNOME Web, or even proprietary ones like Vivaldi, would have a hard time legitimately defending why they would use Edge.

It’s basically designed not only to steal your private data, but also to steal your attention away from Web sites and towards Microsoft. Its page rendering is maybe on par with other Chromium browsers, aside from the fact that everything Microsoft has written is just garbage riding on top of Chromium.

Edge also heavily leans on the user to go to Bing, which is Microsoft’s search engine that can’t ever seem to grow its market share much past the Microsoft browsers that default to it.

Edge, like Bing, is so lousy, they bribe people with company scrip, and it’s still not widely used.

Brave is actually pretty cool. It just gets more cool as you discover more of the program.

Brave was ranked as the most private commercially-available Web browser by the same academic study I cited earlier.

Since the study, Microsoft Edge has only continued getting worse, while Brave has done more to defend your privacy than it did three years ago. Brave Software blogs about it quite frequently and even have a list of malicious Chromium features they patch and compile out while creating their fork.

So not only is Microsoft Edge nasty spyware with junk, it’s riding atop a platform that’s “open core” and pretty nasty all by itself. Designed that way by Google with Microsoft’s help.

I have always browsed around in Brave with ad blocking and fingerprinting protection set to Aggressive, and while there are some things to shut off (the “Web 3 stuff, Brave Rewards, Brave News, Sponsored Wallpapers in New Tab”) and buttons to turn off in the GUI (related to those things), it’s not difficult and when they’re off the browser is not visually cluttered at all.

And yes, I find it kind of lulzy, to be honest, the amount of “tech bruh” stuff in Brave, but turning it off and using the browser actually works pretty well.

Brave isn’t really making money on you at this point and you can simply use the browser in peace. In the Shields setting, you can add content blocker subscriptions, including the ones to block “annoyances” and “cookies”, which are maintained by “Fanboy”, aka “ryanbr” who works at Brave now.

The built-in content blocker is fast, and written in Rust, and like the rest of Brave’s code, is available under the Mozilla Public License 2.0, not some crummy Microsoft EULA that goes on forever.

Unlike most browsers, Brave has a real “private mode” that can keep you safe from your ISP or library/public WiFi following you around, called “Private Mode with Tor Tabs”.

Don’t ever expect this in Microsoft Edge. Like Google, it sits there watching everything. In most proprietary browsers, the only thing “Private Mode” actually does differently is that it does not log a local history while you’re using that tab, but Google has been caught spying on “Incognito” tabs in Google Chrome. It makes exceptions for itself.

Brave is possibly the only commercial browser with a business model that I would say is “not unethical”, because the business model doesn’t spy on you and you can turn it off never to be heard from again and just use this really neat and fast browser program (under the MPL, a Free Software license), without visual clutter or wondering who is “peering over your shoulder”.

You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re being watched while you browse, and Microsoft Edge never lets you forget that you are being watched (and exploited).

In the Soviet Union, they used to have armed guards watching all of the copying machines. In North Korea, they actually have a fork of Firefox that spies on people’s usage of their national “Internet” and submits them for punishment by the regime.

This sort of behavior that you get with Microsoft Edge is the stuff that people in Communist countries have to put up with…but even THEY didn’t get ads from Microsoft’s commercial cesspit in the process.

People who browse with Microsoft Edge are doing themselves a disservice, and people like Alan Pope should be ashamed for recommending it to Linux users.

Microsoft used to port Internet Explorer to all kinds of platforms, and they dropped it without warning and left people without updates when they finished killing Netscape.

When Microsoft gets done “faking their ratings” by buying glowing reviews, and determines that no self-respecting *nix user would touch this as a daily driver, they’ll abandon it.

They lay tens of thousands of people off now, including people working on Edge. How important will the Linux port be?

Linux users don’t really strike me as the type to like to be spied on and have a browser opening MSN and offering them “online shopping coupons” that don’t even work.

There’s no “I’m a Web developer.” use case either. You can check your sites in Chromium.

Nothing in Edge screamed “I’m a computer expert. I use Debian.”, no, it was just a straight up copy of this utterly garbage Windows browser.

Would you let a garbage truck driver borrow your Rolls-Royce?

-The Cat, Red Dwarf

I think that the only reason anyone would open this thing, on Windows, is that this is where Microsoft has put the rotting guts of Internet Explorer’s Trident engine.

They may need this to get at an ActiveX control that never got updated. Microsoft is pushing “Internet Explorer Mode” as a feature, on Windows 11. The entire Internet Explorer 11 browser is there and can be “manipulated” into opening up despite Microsoft’s efforts to force you to interact with Edge to use Trident.

In Linux, there’s no IE Trident to deal with corporate Intranet apps that some asshole wrote 20 years ago, so Microsoft’s only leverage to use it doesn’t exist anyway.

Frankly, it’s amazing that Microsoft’s star feature, Internet Explorer Mode, relies on a browser so dangerous that the US Department of Homeland Security warned people in 2004 that they needed to use another browser because Microsoft wasn’t interested in securing theirs.

I have a “browsing appliance” set up where I’ve created this rigged icon to open Internet Explorer directly anyway to deal with one ActiveX control on an Intranet set, in a Virtual Machine, and then the entire VM gets shut down. Thankfully, mercifully, like a fever dream, Microsoft is gone.

Nothing else can run these things so Microsoft still continues to benefit from antitrust crimes it committed 25 years ago.

I did the “rigged icon” deliberately so I don’t have Edge screaming at me about “Microsoft Points” and “Xboxes” and “Free Office Trials” every time I’m trying to get at an ActiveX control that should have been replaced years ago.

There are some corporations out there, like Walmart, that will spend gobs of money trying to be cheap.

“Back off man, I’m a scientist!”

-Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)

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