Four years ago, Microsoft did something unprecedented in the history of Windows development. By opening the Windows Insider program to all Windows enthusiasts, Microsoft was done with developing the desktop OS in secret, and users were finally given a platform to share their feedback about Windows with the company.
The Windows Insider program is celebrating its 4th anniversary today, and it’s a good time to look back at how the program evolved over the years. Last year, Microsoft announced that the program reached the 10 million members mark, while the new Windows Insider Program for Businesses hit 30K organizations milestone. We don’t hear much about the latter these days (same thing with the #Insiders4Good initiative), but the Windows Insider Program has always been mostly about new Windows 10 features that consumers should care about.
Today's the 4th anniversary of the #WindowsInsiders Program! Thank you everyone who's been here since the beginning, and everyone who's joined along the way. Your feedback has helped shape Windows into the OS it is today, and I can't wait for you to see more of 19H1 💙 pic.twitter.com/HrfYbZHthb
— Jen Gentleman 🌺 (@JenMsft) October 1, 2018
Last year, the opening of the Skip Ahead ring marked a new milestone in the history of the program. For the first time, Microsoft would give select Insiders access to the version of Windows 10 that is two releases away. This added a bit of complexity to the program, as did Microsoft's decision to start shipping cumulative updates. As Microsoft explained at the time, most businesses are enrolled in the Slow ring, which is why Microsoft is now aiming for “beta quality software in the Slow ring, with alpha quality in the Fast ring.” However, that didn't really change the low amount of new builds that Microsoft ships to Slow Ring Insiders.
One thing that didn't change over the years is that you really need to join the Fast Ring (or the Skip Ahead ring) if you want to get access to the fun stuff. It's pretty great to be able to play with experimental features before everyone else, though in some cases Microsoft eventually removes new features to continue working on them behind closed doors. This is what happened with Windows Sets earlier this year, though the functionality is expected to make a comeback at some point.
The Windows Insider program is certainly not perfect, and we know some of you don't really dig the Ninja cat obsession and other private jokes, but Microsoft really deserves credit for trying to be more open with the Windows enthusiasts out there. The Windows Insider team is also very dedicated to interacting with Insiders on Twitter, Discord, or Microsoft's Community website, and you'll certainly learn a lot by joining the program. Doing so is as simple as opening the Windows 10 Settings app, selecting Update & Security and then going to Windows Insider Program.