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While Microsoft Edge launched alongside Windows 10 in the summer of 2015 as the operating system's replacement for Internet Explorer, the company's newer web browser hasn't exactly achieved the same success (or notoriety) as its predecessor. It took nearly a year to add support for add-ons, and Edge still only has a few dozen of them while Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have thousands.

With the Edge browser heading into historical footnote territory, Microsoft made the decision late last year to mostly throw in the towel and shift over to Chromium, which is the programming code that Google uses to make the Chrome browser. Google grants free access to the Chromium codebase, and a number of other browser makers have adopted it, including Brave and Vivaldi.

SEE: 5 tips and tricks for Google Chrome on Android and iPhones

A company as big as Microsoft making a shift like this came as a surprise, after decades of its building and maintaining browser code in-house. So in the wake of its announcement, the tech media has been diligently digging around for updates, and tech blog Neowin scored some exclusive screenshots today that show just how far Microsoft has come. And visually, the answer is "Not very much."

However, we're only about 90 days out from Microsoft's announcement, so one wonders about how much progress can be expected. Or did Microsoft begin this transition some time ago and not announce it until December 7?

Also, for a corporation as huge and bureaucratic as Microsoft, and publicly traded by shareholders who expect results, plans like this can take years to accomplish, and there may be a lot going on with Edge's new direction that wouldn't show up in a screenshot.

In short, this latest news raises as many questions as it answers.

Naturally, we contacted Microsoft's media relations department for some corroboration that these screenshots are both legitimate and an accurate representation of where Edge development is heading right now. But since this is leaked information, the company may be busy trying to limit exposure of info, rather than going into details. Either way, the representative we spoke to said "Microsoft has nothing to share at this time."

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But there are some general things that we can say for sure: With a switch to Chromium, Microsoft gets access to all of Chrome's browser add-ons, and the company no longer needs to maintain the core programming code of the browser, itself. Instead, Microsoft can focus on customizing Chromium to look like Edge, and labor costs will be much lower.

At the same time, leaving the codebase maintenance duties to Google isn't a foregone conclusion. Microsoft may end up creating its own "fork" of Chromium -- basically, taking a snapshot of it in time and branching off in a new direction. There's a sliding scale that goes from "slapping an Edge logo on it" to "making it completely its own thing," and where Microsoft eventually lands will show us how intentful it is about the future of its browser.

Takeaways

  • Tech blog Neowin acquired some leaked screenshots of the new version of Microsoft Edge, which is switching to using Chromium under the hood.
  • Google develops and maintains the programming code for Chromium, which it uses to make the Chrome browser.
  • By adopting Chromium, Microsoft gets access to Chrome's huge library of browser add-ons, and it may make Edge cheaper to maintain.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.