Microsoft has finally acknowledged Web Experience Packs as part of a blog post explaining how the Windows Insider Program isn’t changing much at all in 2022.
“We have more people running preview builds of Windows 11 than we did Windows 10, and we are energized by all the feedback we’re seeing from Insiders and excited to use those insights to make Windows 11 even better for our customers,” Insider lead Langowski writes in the announcement post. “To accomplish this, we have been evolving the way we develop and release to Insiders with more emphasis on trying out different concepts with our features and services.”
Not much is changing.
As before, the Windows Insider Program will use the Dev channel to test features that may or may not appear in a future version of Windows 11. And as before, it will continue using the dreaded A/B testing to bifurcate the channel, leading to some hurt feelings.
And as before, the Insider Program will use the Beta channel to preview Windows 11 experiences that are closer to what Microsoft intends to ship to customers in the future. These features are still not matched to a specific Windows 11 version, and they could still be canceled. But they’re closer.
And as before, the Release Preview channel is where testers can preview features that are coming to Windows 11 soon. So no changes across the three channels.
There is one change.
Buried deep in this post is a throwaway line that includes a mention of a Web Experience Pack, something users have spotted out in the wild in the past, but Microsoft has never officially acknowledged. This new type of Experience Pack is still not explained—that’s the Insider Program for you—but at least it’s out there now:
“We will deliver updates to features and experiences in builds from the Dev and Beta Channels by releasing Feature, Web, and Online Service Experience Packs on top of these builds too,” Ms. Langwoski writes. We know about Feature Experience Packs and Online Service Experience Packs, sort of. The former is literally noted in the Settings apps in Windows 10 and 11. And the latter was first mentioned in late October 2021, when the Insider Program wrote the following:
“Online Service Experience Packs work in a similar way as the Windows Feature Experience Packs do, allowing us to make updates to Windows outside of major OS updates. The difference between the two is that the Windows Feature Experience Packs can deliver broad improvements across multiple areas of Windows, whereas the Online Service Experience Packs are focused on delivering improvements for a specific experience such as the new Your Microsoft account settings page.”
I assume—because I have to—that Web Experience Packs are related to web experiences in Windows 11 like Widgets. Maybe we’ll learn more in the future.
Oh, there is one more thing.
Langowski also revealed that Microsoft is finally getting rid of the Insider Program’s cute but unprofessional “ninja cat’ branding and will use a new icon going forward:
This is meant to evoke “the community of people who love and help shape the future of Windows,” across the three Insider channels, Dev, Beta, and Release Preview. And not bowling pins.