Microsoft has revealed several new features for its Chromium-based Edge web browser at its Build 2019 developer event in Seattle, Washington.
Last year, Microsoft announced that it was overhauling Edge, the web browser that is installed by default in Windows 10, to run on the open-source Chromium engine. This is the same code used by Edge’s biggest rival, Google’s Chrome web browser.
Many people welcomed this news, as it meant that Microsoft could allow Edge to use many of the features Chrome has. Also, because Chromium is an open-source project, it means that any features that Microsoft creates for its new version of Edge can also be added for free into other Chromium-based web browsers.
Now, Microsoft has announced what some of those new features will be.
In a press release announcing the new features, Microsoft says, “We’re excited to work with the larger Chromium open source community to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers.”
This means that, while the features will be debuting in Microsoft's Edge, we may see them in other browsers – such as Google Chrome – in the future.
Microsoft stated that these new features for Edge “address some of the fundamental frustrations with browsers today.” One such feature is the new Internet Explorer mode, which essentially integrates Microsoft’s old Internet Explorer web browser into Edge via a new tab.
Why would you want Internet Explorer in Edge? Well, many years ago Internet Explorer was the most widely-used web browser in the world. This wasn’t because people loved using it – far from it, in fact – but because it was bundled with Windows.
Because of its popularity, there are a number of web sites and web apps that were built specifically for Internet Explorer. However, the browser’s popularity waned, and Microsoft stopped supporting it, and instead concentrated on Edge. This means there are some web sites and web apps out there that won’t work properly in modern browsers.
With the Internet Explorer mode, people can view and use those websites and apps correctly.
People are increasingly concerned about how their internet activity is tracked and shared by third parties as they browse the web, and Microsoft’s web browsers haven’t had the best reputations for protecting user privacy.
However, that looks set to change, with Microsoft adding new privacy controls that allow users to fine tune their privacy.
Edge users can select from three levels of privacy: Unrestricted, Balanced and Strict. This will customize how third parties can track users across the web, which Microsoft promises will give “customers more choice and transparency for a more personalized experience.”
Microsoft is also adding a ‘Collections’ feature, that is designed to help users “collect, organize, share and export content” from the internet.
This new feature could be particularly useful for students and professionals who use the internet for research, and it will have Microsoft Office integration.
As Build 2019 is a developer conference, it’s no surprise that Microsoft also had a few reveals designed for web developers. For example, it revealed Fluid Framework, which the company claims is “a developer technology for building a new class of shared, interactive experiences on the web.”
Apparently, Fluid Framework will allow multiple people to create and edit web pages and documents “at a speed and scale not yet achieved in the industry.”
It will also allow developers to create and deconstruct documents into “collaborative building blocks,” and “use them across applications, and combine them in a new, more flexible kind of document.”
Fluid Framework will also introduce “intelligent agents to work alongside humans to translate text, fetch content, suggest edits, perform compliance checks, and more,” and these features will be integrated into Microsoft 365 apps and services such as Word, Teams and Outlook.
While this all sounds a bit techy, the aim is to allow developers to work together to make exciting new websites and apps for the internet. End users will likely see new web experiences focused on conversational AI and collaboration with other users.
If you fancy giving the new Chromium-based version of Edge a try, you can download an early version from the Microsoft Edge Insider website.