Users Can Now Test Chromium-Based Microsoft Edge

Subscribers to the Microsoft Edge Insider testing program can now access early versions of the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser for Windows 10, Microsoft announced Monday.

Edge browser testers can follow four separate "channel" releases, two of which are now live. The Canary Channel gets updated daily and typically might contain more software flaws. The Dev Channel gets updated weekly and represents the best that emerges from Canary releases. The Canary and Dev Channels are both available now.

There also will be a coming Beta Channel, where updates arrive every six weeks, and a coming Stable Channel.

Testers don't have to sign up for the program to use the Canary Channel or Dev Channel releases. They can just download a particular browser release to join the testing program, according to a Microsoft Tech Community post. Microsoft suggested that its test releases can work alongside current Edge browsers for Windows 10 without conflicts. Users can provide feedback on the test releases via the F1 key, the smiley-face button or Twitter, according to this Microsoft Tech Community post.

When the Beta Channel release of Edge becomes available, it'll be the one that Microsoft will recommend for organizations to follow.

"The Beta channel reflects a significantly more stable release and will be a good target for Enterprises and IT Pros to start piloting the next version of Microsoft Edge," Microsoft explained in a second announcement.

Microsoft's Chromium Support
Microsoft is a contributor to the open source Chromium project, and has already delivered "over 275 commits into the Chromium project" since December, according to Microsoft's second announcement.

Microsoft announced its somewhat shocking decision to switch to the open source Chromium browser rendering engine, fostered by Google, in the Edge browser back in December, but it is just now announcing the public availability of early test releases. Microsoft had indicated back then that it was making the switch to improve things for end users and offer a consistent platform for Web developers. The EdgeHTML browsing engine will still get used for Universal Windows Platform apps, but Microsoft is using some other Chromium-based engine in the new Edge browser than EdgeHTML. Microsoft also is using the Chromium project's V8 engine in Edge, instead of its own ChakraCore JavaScript rending engine, Microsoft later clarified.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows, explained in the Monday announcement that Microsoft Edge Insider testers are providing feedback not just on Edge, but on all browsers that use Chromium.

"In fact, your use at this early stage helps us find bugs that we can fix for not just the next version of Microsoft Edge, but other browsers built using Chromium as well," Belfiore explained.

With the new Edge browser releases, Microsoft has created a new user agent string that developers may notice. The user agent has the "Edg" name in its declaration, instead of the "Edge" name, which signifies the older browser. Of course, Microsoft also asserts that developers shouldn't use browser detection via the user agent string as a means of ensuring site compatibility with browsers. They should use feature detection instead.

User Experience Differentiation
Microsoft is still committed to differentiating the Edge browser based on the user experience or user interface. It doesn't contribute user experience types of changes back to the Chromium project. However, early testing by writer Brien Posey suggested that the new Chromium-based Edge browser "looks like a mash-up between Edge and Google Chrome."

Microsoft is also making its Chromium-based Edge browser work well with Microsoft services. For instance, it still has Bing search enabled by default, and it works with Microsoft's Windows Defender SmartScreen reputation service to warn end users about visiting potentially malicious Web sites.

Microsoft is also touting the ability of the new Edge browser to use different sign-in accounts. Users can use their work and personal accounts, and they can use multiple identities "at the same time in different browser sessions" with the new Edge browser.

Microsoft is also working with the Chromium project to get Chromium API support for its Windows Hello biometric "passwordless" access technology. It's also working with Google to get the Chromium rendering engine to work "natively on Windows on ARM devices starting with Chromium 73." Other Microsoft efforts on behalf of the Chromium project include enhancing accessibility, streaming media, scrolling and touch features.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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