Why Edge?

“Marketing has told me we can’t call it Project Spartan anymore. Are you ready to learn the new name?”

Some guy from Microsoft – BUILD 2015

Thousands of web developers sat on the edge of their seats. Will they call it Spartan? They did that with Cortana, so why not? Personally, a web browser named Spartan is one I’m going to use just on principal. It’s like going to see a movie with Tom Hardy in it – it’s a no-brainer.

But they didn’t call it Spartan. They called it…… Edge. They called it Edge.

This blew my mind. I was stunned. Why would Microsoft step over such an easy win? I mean it really bothered me. I’m at home cutting the grass asking myself “Why Edge?” Watching TV and thinking “Why Edge?” Taking a shower and thinking “WHY EDGE?”

Edge isn’t bad – it’s just not what I wanted, and because of that, I needed an explanation. I needed closure.

I know that at the macro level, this amount of obsession over a web browser name probably indicates some mental health issues on my part. But in my world as a web developer, this is a big deal. Naming is super important and incredibly hard. Just ask my kids. I’ll spare you the hackneyed joke about the two hardest things in computer science.

Do you remember that line in the Social Network where Justin Timberlake (as Sean Parker) says…

The Social Network - pix 08

…And the Zuckerburg says that was the most important piece of advice he ever gave them. I rest my case.

Then all it once – it came to me: this isn’t about a name, this is all about a letter.

e is Everything

All of us have done “family IT support” from time to time; I think that just comes with a job in technology. I imagine nurses get asked “Does this rash look bad?” all the time by family and friends. We get asked why the internet is so slow and the printer isn’t working. It’s our cross to bear.

On occasion, while reluctantly doing said tech support that I have been unwillingly dragged into, someone will explain their problem to me like this.

Family: “The internet isn’t working.”
Me: “What do you mean? Can you get to google.com?”
Family: “How do I do that?”
Me (cringe): “What web browser are you using?”
Family: “Um, I just click on the blue e.”

You see, your everyday consumer doesn’t understand anything about web browsers, but more importantly, they don’t care. Exhibit A:

By and large, they don’t even know that it’s called “Internet Explorer,” let alone what version it is. Why should they? The web, for most consumers, is a transient computing experience that they don’t draw a hard and fast line around. It’s just something that their computer does.

This is why the new name had to start with an “e.” Because Microsoft can change a lot – they can add in the most supported ES6 features (awesome), and ensure that the browser is evergreen (awesomer), crank the dev tools experience to 11 (straight baller), and even allow you to write on the browser (meh) – but they cannot change the way people access all those features, and that’s by “clicking on the blue e.”

The new name, whatever it was, had to start with an “e.”

More importantly, the icon had to be somewhat of a familiar “e.” That means the same shade of blue, and a well known geometric shape. Look at the incarnations of the “IE” icon throughout the years.


Sure, Edge has a slightly different “e,” but it’s an e, and it’s a very familiar shade of blue. While I’m sure that no web developer is going to lose sleep over the widely publicized demise of IE, the consumer will never ever know the difference. And that’s how it should be.

So Why Edge?

We could speculate, but I think that the name derives from the `X-UA-Compatible` meta tag where you can specify that IE should use the latest rendering mode.

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">

Given the significance of the “e”, and the reference to always having the most recent browser features, Edge isn’t just a good name, it’s the right name.

Still. The part of me that loved 300 will always miss not being able to ever say, “This. is. Spartan!”



  • Ed Charbeneau

    Because as power users we forget what the novice user sees (aka, the normals).

    Also, for clarification. A Browser is the boss you fight at the end of Super Mario.

    • Actually, isn’t that a “bower”?

      • burkeholland

        It’s a BOWSER. That would have been epic if that was one of the answers in the video. Not everyone has the comedic genius of Edward F. Charbeneau.

  • Mary Branscombe

    This is definitely the reason. But much as you loved 300, consider the likelihood of Microsoft naming a product after a slave-owning society 😉

    • Doug Winfield

      I doubt the slave society had much to do with it. Probably more to do with spartan meaning bare bones and a bit rough, as in “spartan accommodations”. Edge isn’t brilliant, but it’ll probably work. Words that could also describe most Microsoft products.

      • Mary Branscombe

        It was always going to be an E word. It’s just that people forget the connotations when they agitate for the Spartan name. Really, if you know classical history, it’s offensive 😉

        • Andrew M. Farrell

          Finally! Someone else who recognizes this! And the Spartan form of slavery was particularly horrifying, rivaled only perhaps by American chattel slavery.

  • aaronfrost

    If you think that the legend of 300 is legit, the legend of Spartacus himself is even more inspiring.

    • burkeholland

      *puts finger on chin* I AM SPARTACUS

  • Tony Anderson

    Also, Spartan is a very foreign name to a regular user (whom obviously don’t download technical previews). It doesn’t say anything about what it does, it doesn’t convey the internet, etc. So while we thought Spartan was a cool name, I doubt the regular consumer would have.

    • burkeholland

      You think? They didn’t seem to have that problem with Cortana. Although Cortana was AI and Spartan is just a big dude in a metal suit so maybe it was more applicable in that regard.

      Still – I think that your average user isn’t going to care what the name is. Only that there is still a blue e somewhere for them to click on.

  • Michael Zock

    To sum it up in one line:

    • burkeholland

      Totes. Except my favorite part of that tag was chrome=1… 🙂

      • Michael Zock

        It’s just kinda fitting that the attempt for a fresh start is named after a hack that was often the only hope of getting the old browser to actually do its job.
        Though I do have to admit that the first time I looked at the new browser’s user agent I was grinning like mad because that thing is all over the place and will run into plenty of problems with sites that still use that for detection (even had one of those “What’s my browser?” sites with some ancient Javascript identify it as Netscape Navigator).