Google claims Edge slowing “empty div” was just a bug

We reported yesterday that an ex-Edge engineer has revealed that the Edge team had felt Google was intentionally sabotaging Edge by making changes to their YouTube website.

Joshua Bakita wrote:

I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up. For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.

Now while I’m not sure I’m convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced – and they’re the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.

And this is only one case.

Now Google has released a statement to the Verge denying the charge, claiming the empty div was merely a bug which they fixed after it was reported.

They wrote:

“YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers, and works quickly to fix bugs when they’re discovered. We regularly engage with other browser vendors through standards bodies, the Web Platform Tests project, the open-source Chromium project and more to improve browser interoperability.”

It is notable that by calling the empty div a bug YouTube has squashed all the other innocent explanations for the presence of the code on their website, such that it may have been an anti-click fraud feature. Even if it was an innocent bug, it would simply be another example of YouTube not testing its code against other browsers, furthering the cause of a Chromium-only web. Mozilla had previously complained for example that the last YouTube redesign made the site “5x slower in Firefox and Edge.”

Of course, the debate has become increasingly academic after Microsoft threw in the towel and announced that they will abandon development of their EdgeHTML web rendering engine and switch to Google’s Chromium engine.

In a statement, Microsoft said, “Google has been a helpful partner and we look forward to the journey as we work on the future of Microsoft Edge.”

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