Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview Build with Edge Extensions
- By Kurt Mackie
- March 18, 2016
A new preview build of Windows 10 introduces the long-anticipated extensions capability for Microsoft's Edge Web browser.
Microsoft on Thursday released build 14291 of Windows 10 for both PCs and mobile devices. The build, which is currently only available for fast-ring Windows Insider program participants, marks the public debut of the extensions capability, a lagging feature ever since Microsoft launched Edge last year. The extensions capability permits applications built by software vendors to integrate with Microsoft's browser. Most browsers, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer-branded browsers, have long had support for extensions, which are popularly used to do things like block Internet advertisements.
According to Gabe Aul, corporate vice president for the engineering systems team at Microsoft, the Edge extensions work only on Windows 10 PCs right now. Also, the new extensions capability is currently limited to the use of just three add-ons. Available extensions include the Microsoft Translator, Microsoft Mouse Gestures and the Reddit Enhancement Suite. Those extensions have to be "sideloaded" from Microsoft's developer resource page here in order to make them accessible within the Edge browser.
Sideloading extensions is a two-step process. It requires downloading the extension. Next, the "hamburger" menu in the Edge browser is used to open the downloaded extension, which typically sits in Windows 10's download folder.
This somewhat user unfriendly sideloading process likely will change. Microsoft is planning to house Edge extensions in its Windows Store sometime this year.
"When we ship extensions to the public later this year, extensions will be available through the Windows Store, providing users a simple and secure discovery and installation experience," the Microsoft Edge team explained in a blog post this week.
The aim of this effort, in part, is to enforce better security for add-ons. Drew DeBruyne, general manager of Microsoft Edge, explained in a blog post this week that "our experience over the past 20 years has taught us that poorly written or even malicious add-ons were a huge source of security, reliability and performance issues for browsers."
Developers have to meet certain criteria for their apps to be housed in the Windows Store. It will serve as a security screen of sorts, although Microsoft also takes a percentage from developer profits.
More Windows Store details will be coming soon. The Edge team indicated that Microsoft plans to "share more details on our extension APIs and the path to the Store at Build 2016 and Microsoft Edge Web Summit." Those two events will kick off at the end of this month and on April 4, respectively.
Other extensions are in the works. DeBruyne said that "later this year customers will find popular extensions from partners like AdBlock, Adblock Plus, Amazon, LastPass, Evernote and more."
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.