After many leaks, Microsoft is releasing the first preview builds of its next-gen Microsoft Edge browser. The company today launched the new Microsoft Edge Insider site that gives users access to the first preview builds of the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser.
As part of the preview program, there will be three different channels: Beta, Developer, and Canary. Canary builds are preview builds that are expected to be quite buggy and updated daily, while Developer builds are slightly more stable builds that are updated weekly, and Beta builds are the ones you would want to use on your main machine. Builds from the different channels can be run side-to-side, of course, so you aren’t limited to one channel at a time.
Microsoft is only opening up the Developer and Canary channels today, with Beta builds expected to arrive in the future. The company also plans on releasing builds for macOS and older versions of Windows in the near-future.
As for the first preview builds of the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, it’s very much a polished experience. The browser itself looks very identical to Google Chrome, but with Microsoft’s own flavour on top of the interface. It lets you sign-in with your Microsoft Account and even get a Microsoft News-powered News Tab, for example. Extensions support is also here, with Microsoft offering a limited set of extensions from its own new extension store, as well as letting users install extensions from third-party stores like the Chrome Web Store. That means you will be able to install any Chrome extension on the browser without any problems.
There’s even a dark mode that can be enabled using a flag:
Other Chrome features like support for Progressive Web Apps and the ability to “install” such apps is also here:
And since this is fully based on Chromium, Microsoft is also keeping in the developer tools that come with Chromium instead of swapping it out with its own developer tools. It wouldn’t make sense for Microsoft to use its own developer tools here, so I am glad we are getting the really powerful F12 tools that ship with Chromium:
Microsoft plans to contribute significantly to Chromium going forward, working closely with Google itself. The company says it is currently focused on things like accessibility, touch, and ARM64 support. It also plans to introduce smooth scrolling, a reading view optimized for reading free of distractions, grammar tools, and Microsoft Translator integration.
“We’re working directly with the teams at Google and the broader Chromium community on this work and appreciate the collaborative and open discussions. These contributions represent work-in-progress and are not yet fully represented in the browser you can install today, so stay tuned. We look forward to continued engagement with the community to progress Chromium in these areas and others,” said Joe Belfiore, who leads the team behind Microsoft Edge and other Windows experiences at Redmond.
And that’s really about it for the new Microsoft Edge. There’s a lot of Microsoft-integration still needed here — things like syncing your data between this new browser and Edge on mobile doesn’t work, and Windows Timeline integration isn’t here yet, either. For a first preview, though, this is a really impressive start from Microsoft. I am going to use this new browser as my main browser for the next week or so and report back, so keep an eye out for my experience with the browser after some daily use.
If you want to give the new Microsoft Edge a try, you can download the preview builds here. Microsoft really wants users to provide feedback, so make sure to report any bugs or problems you have with the browser. But more importantly, make sure you download builds from the right release channel — if you are someone who needs a reliable browsing experience, you should only really download the Developer builds. And if you are feeling brave, feel free to try out the Canary builds too.