We reported previously on all of the work that Microsoft did in 2015 to make their new Edge browser better for Web developers. The better Edge supports various Web standards, the quicker the browser will be adopted by users and serve to replace Microsoft's aging Internet Explorer. Now, Microsoft wants us to know how they plan to keep improving Edge throughout 2016.
First up is the topic on many peoples' minds: Edge extensions. The ability to extend a browser's capabilities through the addition of snippets of code is vital to the modern Web user, and so far Edge is at a distinct disadvantage. Arguably, Chrome's primary advantage over Edge is its strong extension ecosystem, and until Microsoft implements the same, Edge will likely continue to struggle.
Microsoft touches on extensions in their update, with the most interesting aspect being that Edge extensions will be distributed via the Windows Store. That's a bit of news, and here's the whole thing:
Last year, we announced our intent to deliver a new extension platform for Microsoft Edge to replace the often unreliable and insecure native add-ons of the past. Extensions are among the most requested features for Microsoft Edge and we’re building an extension platform powered by web technologies and familiar to developers. Any browser extensibility is a potential vector for malicious software, and our extensions will be vetted, delivered, and managed through the Windows Store.
Unfortunately but perhaps not surprisingly, Microsoft provides no update on timing. It's likely that Edge extensions will be coming in the Windows 10 Redstone update, but we don't know for sure when that update will be released. We do know, however, that Windows Insiders will be getting a peek at extensions sometimes soon, and so if you're not an Insider then you might want to join up.
Microsoft was kind enough to provide a nice list of their plans for Edge in 2016. The following is a brief summary.
Microsoft has been working hard to make sure all users can access and utilize their various solutions. Edge will be no different:
Back in September, we published Accessibility: Towards a more inclusive web with Microsoft Edge and Windows 10, outlining the state of support for popular assistive technologies in Microsoft Edge and sharing our roadmap to improve that support. We’re devoting more resources than ever to that task in 2016, and are committed to making Microsoft Edge a first-class accessible experience for browsing the web whether you’re using Windows’ built in Narrator or 3rd party assistive technologies.
Microsoft will be focusing as well on the most basic browser tasks, ensuring that Edge provides a good browsing experience and is a well-behaving app on Windows 10 systems:
While web developers have a responsibility to write safe and functional code, ultimately the browser is responsible for ensuring that code doesn’t harm the user or breach their trust, that it performs as expected, and that doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on system stability or battery life. While these are all areas that are never “done,” we will continue to focus on fundamentals in 2016, including:
- Advance product security across multiple dimensions (lots of surprises coming).
- Enhance keyboard scrolling performance and interactivity.
- Isolate Adobe Flash into a separate process and pause unnecessary content.
- Continue to push the GPU boundaries through native Windows graphics.
- Improve background tab suspension, timers, and processing.
Building for the future of the web
As Microsoft discussed regarding their work in 2015, supporting Web standards is key to Edge's success. Their work on standards support will continue in 2016:
Despite this, it’s fashionable to measure browsers based on the number of new APIs they support. While this can be a useful yardstick, we believe a measure of thoughtfulness is important in choosing which technologies to implement, and at what pace.
Our goal is to find the right approach to implementing new web standards features that may undergo rapid evolution, potentially causing unneeded turbulence for web developers (e.g. Flexbox or WebRTC/ObjectRTC), or may gather popularity and then be abandoned for various reasons (e.g. Object.observe() or SMIL).
Developers can dig into the piece for the details on how Microsoft will ensure that EdgeHTML is a leader in supporting current and emerging standards. For the rest of us, suffice it to say that their plate is rather full in terms of making Edge into a fully-featured Web browser.
Opening up to the community
Finally, Microsoft will be working to communicate with the web community through a variety of venues. Here are a few:
- Microsoft Edge Dev Blog
- Platform Status page
- Platform Suggestion Box on Uservoice
- @MSEdgeDev on Twitter
We'll be working hard to keep up with Edge as it continues to develop into a competitive browser. Chrome remains in the lead in terms of supporting standards and serving as an extensible Web platform, but Edge is taking the performance crown. Now, it's time for Microsoft to fix Edge's stability and provide more tools to let developers turn Edge into a viable competitor. We're looking forward to seeing how the company progresses throughout 2016.