A year of builds: looking back on the Windows 10 Insider program in 2016

After what seems like a lifetime, 2016 has finally come to an end. More than any year in recent memory, this one seemed to have been bursting at the seams with twists and turns to keep us all interested – and the Windows 10 Insider program was no exception. In 2016 we got 47 Fast Ring Insider builds, a brand new release of Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update, and a new leader of the program with Dona Sarkar. As we look forward to the next year of the Windows Insider program, let’s take a look back to see how things have unfolded so far.

The Anniversary Update

The biggest achievement of the Windows Insider program since Windows 10 first launched has most certainly been the Anniversary Update. The update, known by most as Redstone 1 before its catchier name was introduced, brought with it the biggest addition of features that we’ve ever seen in an update to Windows. With such a huge release being the first of its kind since the Insider program truly started building momentum, it was the perfect time for us to prove how great this program is.

As a result of the testing we did throughout that summer crunch of builds, the Anniversary Update was able to release to the general public as a relatively bug-free experience. Not only did the work of the Insider program help to squash bugs for the final release of the Anniversary update, but our feedback directly influenced what features ended up making it there in the first place.

From now until the Creators Update, the Anniversary Update will stand as a monument to all of the work done by both the Windows Insiders and the engineers that work with us to turn all of our feedback into reality.

A change in leadership

For anyone following the Windows Insider program, it’s safe to say that June kicked off with a bit of a surprise. On June 1st, Gabe Aul, who had been presiding over the big red button for quite a long time, stepped down from the Windows Insider program to focus on leading the Engineering Systems Team. Taking his place was Dona Sarkar, someone who had been with Microsoft since the Windows Vista days and, according to Gabe, had “unmatched” technical expertise, passion for customers, and commitment to listening to feedback.

Sarkar has led the program since then, and has very successfully led the program through the Anniversary Update. She stays active on Twitter and does a great job of engaging the community, and you can tell that she lives and breathes the Windows Insider program – her pinned tweet is still the one from June 1st, where she publicly accepts the position.

A summer of builds

If you were testing with the Windows Insider Program during the summer, then you would know that things got pretty crazy for about two months. Between June and July, we received 14 builds – that’s almost a third of the entire year’s worth of releases. This came just as The Anniversary Update needed the most polish before it release in late August, which meant that we were frequently getting polish builds multiple times a week.

Unlike the majority of the Windows Insider program where we usually end up getting one build a week – if that – we were kept on the edge of our seats, waiting to see if the big red button would be pushed that day. 3-build weeks were actually relatively frequent. It was a wild time, and when August finally came around and we were able to see the finished product of all that testing, it was something pretty special.

Looking forward

We’ve had a lot of cool stuff happen over the year with the Insider program, and it’s safe to say that 2016 has been our best year yet. It wouldn’t be Microsoft, though, if they weren’t planning to outdo themselves in 2017. We already know that Redstone 2 – also known as the Creators Update – is in the works, and features are starting to leak into the Insider program already. 2017 will see us take a deeper dive into this new update and see it to its final release, and will presumably take us into whatever Microsoft has in store next.

Dona Sarkar seems to be firmly planted in her seat at the head of the Windows Insider program, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. As Windows 10 transformed Windows into a service worth following every day, it’s been an amazing experience to have someone so dedicated leading such a massive community of people who are just as passionate about making Windows better through the power of communication and feedback. Between the Windows Insider program proper and the #Winsiders4Good, the future is looking brighter and brighter.

Here’s to another year full of progress!

 

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What was your favorite moment of the Insider program this year?