Microsoft Issues Updated WebView 2 SDK

Posted on June 20, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Microsoft Edge, Dev, Windows, Windows 10, Windows 8.1 with 3 Comments

Microsoft this week released an updated version of its new WebView 2 SDK, which helps developers add web content to their Windows 10 applications.

Controversially, WebView 2 will be less capable than the original WebView because it’s built only on web standards and the new Chromium-based version of Microsoft Edge. With the original WebView, developers can also harness native Windows 10 features thanks to its underlying EdgeHTML technologies.

Microsoft says that WebView 2 capabilities will improve over time, but it also understands that some developers will continue using the original WebView in their Store apps because they require specific functionality. So, existing Windows apps that use WebView will continue to work as-is, and without modification, as Microsoft pushes forward with WebView 2.

And that push is happening relatively slowly: This week’s second release of the WebView 2 SDK still only supports Win32 desktop apps running on Windows 10 and built using C++. Support for Windows 7, 8.x, and Windows Server 2012 R2 or newer will be available in the future, Microsoft says, as will support for other languages and the UWP, WFP, and WinForms frameworks.

So why even make this change? The issue with the original WebView is that it was tied to classic Microsoft Edge, and both were updated twice each year, and tied to specific releases of Windows 10. Over time, there were multiple supported versions of WebView, Edge, and Windows 10 in the market, leading to fragmentation issues for developers.

WebView 2, by contrast, is consistent with the new Microsoft Edge, which is updated on all platforms regularly, and is not tied to specific versions of Windows 10. It’s also available across all Windows developer platforms, including Win32, UWP, WFP, and WinForms; the original WebView only worked with UWP until the last version, when Win32 support was added. And it will work with all supported versions of Windows, and not just Windows 10.

Microsoft refers to Windows apps that incorporate WebView (or WebView 2) as hybrid apps. And the Office team is now using WebView 2 to bring web-powered experiences to future versions of the traditional Office apps via a new Add-ins experience.

“This hybrid approach lets you to share code with similar controls on other platforms or with your websites, to inject dynamic content into your native apps, and to leverage the rich and growing ecosystem of tools, frameworks, and talent around web technologies, among other benefits,” Microsoft’s Limin Zhu explains. “WebView2 is by default powered by the always up-to-date Microsoft Edge, so you can build your web content against the latest and most secure platform without worrying about fragmentation across Windows versions, or across your web content running in the browser and in your app.”

Key to this is a new “bring your own” model that will allow developers to bundle a redistributable version of a particular WebView 2 version with their apps. That way, they don’t need to worry about how Windows, Microsoft Edge, or WebView 2 have evolved over time and they can ensure that their app always works as expected. (On the downside, developers will be responsible for updating that version of WebView 2 with security updates as Microsoft will not service these redistributable WebView 2 instances with automatic updates.)

You can learn more about WebView 2 on the Microsoft Docs website. There’s also a handy Getting Started tutorial.

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Comments (3)

3 responses to “Microsoft Issues Updated WebView 2 SDK”

  1. bart

    "And the Office team is now using WebView 2 to bring web-powered experiences to future versions of the traditional Office apps via a new Add-ins experience."

    Are we talking Office PWA's here?

    • HarriTalvitie

      In reply to Bart:

      No, the WebView controls are used within native apps.

      With the native Office apps hosting a WebView control (and some clever JavaScript bridging), the same add-ins can target both the desktop and web versions of Office.

  2. TroyTruax

    Any WebView control that can be used in a desktop app without requiring registry entries to keep it from defaulting to IE 6 mode would be very welcome.