Microsoft promotes 'full-Chromium' Edge to Beta, touts enterprise skillset

Microsoft promotes 'full-Chromium' Edge to Beta, touts enterprise skillset

Microsoft has launched a Beta build of its browser for all supported editions of Windows, including 7 and 10, and macOS

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Microsoft has pushed the "full-Chromium" Edge one step closer to a production release with the launch Tuesday of a Beta build for macOS and all supported editions of Windows, including 7 and 10.

"Beta is the third and final preview channel which will come online before launch," wrote Joe Belfiore, a top Windows executive, in an Aug. 20 post to a company blog.

"Beta represents the most stable preview channel, as features are added to Beta only after they have cleared quality testing in first the Canary channel and then the Dev channel."

Like Chrome, which is also built from the technologies created by the open-source Chromium project, Edge will eventually come in four flavours: Canary, Dev, Beta and Stable. Other than Canary, which is updated nightly, each build is more polished and more stable than its predecessor; each Dev and Beta build is maintained for about six weeks before its code is promoted to the next in line.

Chrome's current Dev, for example, is version 78 while Beta is now at version 77. Stable is now at version 76. The code currently in Dev 78 will move from there to Beta early next month, then from Beta to Stable 78 around 22 October.

Although Edge's new Beta is marked as version 77 - like Chrome's - it's unlikely that Microsoft will graduate the browser to Stable in October. Microsoft has not set a launch date for full-Chromium Edge, although in recent interviews, officials have said they hope to release the first Stable at the end of this year or early next.

At some point after that, Microsoft will swap in the Chromium Edge for the EdgeHTML Edge now in Windows 10.

Microsoft announced in December 2018 that it would kill off Edge's home-grown rendering and JavaScript engines, and replace them with those produced by Chromium. Since then, the Redmond, Wash. company has issued Canary and Dev version for macOS and Windows 10, later expanding the latter support to Windows 7 and 8.1.

"The next version of Microsoft Edge is ready for everyday use," Belfiore told users, referring to the new Beta.

To make his case, Belfiore trumpeted some of the build's available features, including new tab page customisation and tracking protection, although the latter has not been enabled.

(Microsoft followed rivals Apple and Mozilla in adding anti-tracking skills to full-Chromium Edge but even in the Beta, hides it behind an options screen.

To switch it on, type edge://flags in the address bar, then locate the "Microsoft Edge tracking prevention" option and change it to "Enabled." Relaunch the browser. Tracking Prevention can be found and managed under "Privacy and Services" in the Settings pane. By default, it will be set to the "Balanced" mode.)

Several enterprise-only features have been added to Edge's latest preview.

Internet Explorer (IE) mode, which will replace the separate IE11 as the legacy arm of Microsoft's browser strategy, was announced in May even as the company declined to go into detail, saying then that more would come "later this year."

Not until July and IE mode's appearance in the Dev build of Edge - along with documentation on the mode - did Microsoft make good on its promise.

The mode lives in the more refined Beta now as well, backed by updated documentation.

Also new to full-Chromium Edge is Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG), which like the same-named feature on the original EdgeHTML Edge, isolates IT-defined sites to protect workers from potential attack.

Beta 77 is the first full-Chromium Edge to support WDAG. The defensive technology also requires Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise, although the former works only in what Microsoft calls "stand-alone" mode.

"If you are an enterprise customer, the next version of Microsoft Edge is ready to pilot with either Beta or Dev builds," Belfiore concluded in his post.

The new Edge can be downloaded from the Edge Insider website.

edge beta 77 IDG/Gregg Keizer

Microsoft promoted Edge to Beta status but has yet to name a release date for the revamped browser built with Chromium.

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