Microsoft is Splitting the Windows Insider Beta Channel in Two

Posted on July 5, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 22 Comments

Microsoft just can’t stop screwing with the Windows Insider Program. But at least this latest change isn’t as horrible as similar previous changes.

“Starting today, we are releasing updates to the Beta Channel that put Windows Insiders into one of two groups similar to what we did back in 2019,” the announcement post explains. “A group of Insiders in the Beta Channel will receive Build 22622.xxx updates that will have new features getting rolled out or turned on via an enablement package like how we release updates for Windows 10 today. A[nother] group of Insiders in the Beta Channel will receive Build 22621.xxx updates that will have new features turned off by default.”

If you know the Insider program, you know the drill: this is A/B testing on a massive scale, and those testers who are placed in Group A (22622.xxx) will get new features, while those in Group B (22621.xxx) will not. But there are some interesting nuances this time around, and it’s not all bad.

First, Microsoft says that “the majority of Insiders in the Beta Channel will automatically get the update (Build 22622.xxx),” meaning that they will be in Group A. And second, those unlucky souls who end up in Group B can “check for updates and choose to install the update that will have features rolling out (Build 22622.xxx).” So there is at least an out.

“This approach is being used for the Beta Channel only and is not indicative of any changes or plans for final feature rollouts,” Microsoft adds. “The enablement package artificially increments the build number for the update with new features getting rolled out and turned on to make it easier to differentiate from devices with the update with features off by default. As a reminder, features we try out with Windows Insiders will ship when they are ready and not every feature that we try out in the Beta Channel will ship to general customers.”

And on that note, Microsoft today is releasing two builds to the Beta channel of the Insider Program, build 22622.290 with new features and build 22621.290 with no new features. New features include:

Suggested actions. “When you copy a date, time, or phone number, Windows will suggest actions relevant to you such as creating calendar events or making phone calls with your favorite apps,” the post explains. “This feature is currently only available to Windows Insiders in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.”

OneDrive storage alert and subscription management in Settings. The Settings app will now display OneDrive information on the Accounts page in Settings just as it does already for Microsoft 365. Right now, this only works for those who pay for 100 GB storage upgrades.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Microsoft is Splitting the Windows Insider Beta Channel in Two”

  1. rob_segal

    Microsoft is over-complicating something that should be simple. One update per year. Dev channel receives features for new release first in the least stable channel, ideal for developers and IT pros. Beta channel receives new features for yearly release after Dev in a more stable channel, ideal for enthusiasts. Release Preview for the general public who wants new features for yearly release right before it goes out to everybody to make sure everything is good. Instead, Windows users continue to have this confusing Insider program I'm not sure anybody truly understands.

    • ralfred

      I don't find it that hard to follow and if it is hard to follow, maybe Windows Insider is not for you. But to summarize it:

      Major updates are already once a year

      Dev is where new features are introduced. New features might be removed again

      Beta is what stable is likely to look like but still needs polishing

      Release Preview is something IT Pros can use to testdrive what stable most likely to look like


      Microsoft does A/B testing, but if you can't manage that, then again, Windows Insider is not for you.

      • dftf

        Maybe not that complicated now, no... but we did start out with "branches", then "rings", and now "channels".


        The "Fast Ring" is now "Dev channel", and also used to have something called "Skip Ahead" which is no-longer a thing. "Slow Ring" is now "Beta channel". "Release preview channel" (formerly "Release Preview Ring") I'm not even-sure what it is -- is this when people on the stable-channel of Windows get offered next-month's update a couple or a few weeks early in Windows Update, or is that unrelated?


        And then, even if you are on the "Beta channel" or "Dev channel" and understand the risks of either, users then still get confused why they aren't seeing the features they should in their build (e.g. Beta 10.0.22622.290 or Dev 10.0.25151.1010), because of this silly A/B testing thing they do.


        Oh, and given that the Dev-channel in Windows 10 suddenly ended and became Windows 11... how can anyone on the Windows 11 Dev-channel today be sure what they are testing will be for 11 or will randomly become Windows 12 suddenly?

    • jim_vernon

      Read the original blog post where they explain exactly what they're doing and why. It makes sense.

  2. will

    This is dumb. Peroid.

  3. Bart

    Pretty straight forward. Nice to have the option to enable features if you get build 22621??

  4. JJaret

    They also took away a feature, at least for me. I lost the tabbed File Explorer with 22622.

    • JJaret

      Correction, tabbed File Explorer back after another reboot.

      • benhaube

        I lost mine, and they have not come back yet. I have done multiple reboots since the update. I was a lucky one and got the 22622 build on both my laptop and desktop.

  5. madthinus

    This headline is a little clickbaity. Yes they are splitting it in two to enable the testing of an enablement package to up the build from 22621 to go to 22622. My guess is that they will do the same with the release preview as well. The better question is why? Why the need for an enablement package if we are meant to only have one build a year? 22H2 is the next version of Windows 11. The build number goes from 22000 (21H2) to 22621 if we believed that 22621 is the final RTM number. Now there is an enablement package to bump it from 22621 to 22622. WHY? That is the far better question.

  6. navarac

    Total Wazzocks!


    A/B Testing is now baked into the Insider Programme officially! No point what-so-ever being an insider to get builds with stuff turned off - why I abandoned ship 2 years ago. Not that Microsoft takes any notice of feedback anyway.

    • dftf

      Yeah, totally agree: I see no-point in people who want to be testers signing-up for the Insider versions of Windows, only to never see some of the new-features they blog-about. Talk about killing all enthusiasm!


      And yeah, the Feedback Hub goes to show how-much they care about feedback thesedays, given the fact it seems largely unmanaged, with tons of poor-quality feedback, and rarely do MS employees actually reply. Most of the time they just bundle loads of unrelated issues into one "collection" so they can quickly close them all off!

  7. johnlavey

    I assume this 'splitting' doesn't affect those insiders in the development channel?


    John

  8. djross95

    Good Lord, MS couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery (to steal an immortal down-under expression). Could they make this any more complicated?

    • lvthunder

      Don't challenge them? I'm sure they can make it a lot more complicated. Just look at the Office releases and try to figure out when you are going to get those features. Sometimes it takes months.

  9. dftf

    Yeah, have to agree this really does seem over-complicated when you compare to other software.


    Most browsers for example have a simple "stable" or "release" channel, which is the one the vast, vast majority should be one. For enterprises, some also offer a "long-term updates" edition (similar to Windows 10 LTSC). And then they have the "Beta" version, which is one version ahead; and the "Alpha", "Dev" or "Nightly" version, which is two versions ahead.


    For Windows itself, Microsoft should just offer three options: "stable" (the one most people should be on, with one major-update once-a-year); "beta" (which should let you preview upcoming features from the next major version: so 22H2 as-of-now, and get updated about one-a-week); and "dev" (which should preview 23H2, and may contain features that may never-ship, and should receive updates multiple-times-a-week).


    For the Modern Apps that come with Windows, such as Calculator, Media Player, News, Notepad, Photos, Sticky Notes, Weather, then just make it so within the Store you list the "beta" and "dev" versions with that in the app's title, and allow people to install the different versions alongside each-other (like you can now with browsers). So, on the same system, you might have "Notepad", "Notepad (Beta)" and "Notepad (Dev)" each listed in the Start Menu, and for the beta and dev versions, perhaps overlay that word on their icon, or make the icon greyscale so it looks visibly different from the default stable one.

    • rob_segal

      Microsoft could have something similar to Apple. The dev channel is for developers and IT professionals who register for the dev program for free through Microsoft. It's more private and targeted. The beta channel would be the public preview. No registration is required. Just turn it on in Windows settings. Release preview would be for the release version before it hits the general public. What Microsoft has right now is too confusing and complicated and has been that way for years.

      • lvthunder

        They could do things a hundred different ways, but they choose to do it this way. It must make the most sense to them even though it's confusing to us.

    • lvthunder

      That might not be how the dev team work though. They may need those other options for times where they want features off because they aren't ready, but they can't yank all the code out of Windows. My guess is Windows has one of the most complicated code bases out of everything.

      • rob_segal

        MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Android are complicated, too. They might not be as complicated as the Windows codebase is, but they're still complicated. A yearly release could be more manageable than releasing random features on random months of the year.

        • dftf

          Sure, Android typically gets only one major update a year... but the apps that run on it often do come in "stable", "beta" and "dev" varieties. Look at Chrome, Maps and YouTube as examples. The WebView rendering-engine is also available in "beta" or "dev", too.


          "[...] than releasing random features on random months of the year"


          Okay, so they are not random, but... what about the Pixel Feature-Drops that occur every three-months between major Android versions?

  10. lwetzel

    Thanks, Paul for the information and heads up. I had not seen anything notifying me (as an insider) of this so I want you to know you're apprectiated.