Will Microsoft Edge actually get some good extensions?

4 Feb, 2016

Redmond shares Edge browser plans for 2016

Microsoft plans to bring more extensions to its Edge browser, admitting previous efforts have been "unreliable and insecure".

Creation of a new extensions platform for Microsoft Edge is the top priority for 2016, Microsoft confirmed in a blog post about planned improvements to EdgeHTML, the software Edge is built on.

Jason Weber, director of program management for Microsoft Edge, said his team will create a modern extensions platform to replace “the often unreliable and insecure native add-ons of the past”.

This platform will be powered by familiar web technologies and will be managed through the Windows Store.

Extensions are additional software that users can install on their browser to enable it to perform more actions, like displaying weather information or allowing the users to screenshot an entire webpage.

They are the most requested feature for Edge, Weber admitted, and are already a common feature of browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

Next on the Edge team’s list priorities is accessibility, which is described as a “Microsoft-wide priority”. Weber said his team is “devoting more resources than ever” to assistive technologies in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer successor.

He added that Microsoft would modernise its accessibility system to support HTML5 and CSS3 on Windows 10 and improve the visual impairment readability and selection features – a goal which may incorporate Microsoft’s recently announced Learning Tools technology.

Improving the fundamentals of its browser is another key priority for the Edge team this year - focusing on JavaScript and Flash.

Weber said Microsoft would “lead the industry in JavaScript benchmark performance”, throwing down the challenge to rival browser-makers. “Good luck catching us,” he said.

Adobe Flash has traditionally been a source of irritation for users of Microsoft’s browsers, impacting performance and exposing users to security vulnerabilities.

Weber said Microsoft is working on isolating Adobe Flash into a separate process and allowing unnecessary content to be paused. This should give users more control over the Flash content that plays.

Microsoft is also exploring a selection of up-and-coming web standards – including ES2016 Modules, Fetch API, and WOFF 2.0 – with the intention of future-proofing the Edge browser as web technologies continue to evolve.

“Our goal is to find the right approach to implementing new web standards features that may undergo rapid evolution, potentially causing unneeded turbulence for web developers (eg Flexbox or WebRTC/ObjectRTC), or may gather popularity and then be abandoned for various reasons (eg Object.observe() or SMIL),” said Weber.

Furthermore, Microsoft intends to make more effort to engage with its community engagement, and make it easier for developers to share and track interoperability issues.

Microsoft’s Edge predecessor, Internet Explorer, remains one of the most widely used browsers today, despite developing an infamous reputation for poor security. Last month, cut off support for IE 8, 9 and 10, and encouraged users to migrate to its Edge browser.