Microsoft today shared details about some of the features it is working on for its Edge browser this year. The news focuses on developers, but a lot of what was unveiled also naturally trickles down to the user.
Because this is a developer update, Microsoft naturally talks about EdgeHTML, the browser’s rendering engine. Edge and EdgeHTML have separate version numbers and are built by separate teams that work closely together.
Microsoft says it has five priorities for this year, which developers should see all of Edge’s product focus and standards body engagements revolve around. The company only discussed the first four in depth today:
- Deliver a modern extension platform powered by web technologies and the Windows Store
- Empower all Microsoft Edge customers through accessibility and inclusive design
- Continue to reinforce Microsoft Edge fundamentals: security, performance, and efficiency
- Build thoughtfully for the future of the web
- Embrace more channels for community feedback and participation
Microsoft already promised that Edge is getting extensions. In fact, extensions were supposed to arrive by the end of 2015 but were instead delayed.
Unlike Internet Explorer’s native add-ons, Edge’s extension platform is powered by web technologies. All extensions will be vetted, delivered, and managed through the Windows Store. Unfortunately, Microsoft still doesn’t have a date for when extension support will debut, promising only to share “early examples soon” via the Windows Insider Program.
In terms of accessibility features, Microsoft has begun development on major improvements focused on the following goals:
- Modernize the accessibility system to support HTML5 and CSS3 on Windows 10
- Enable HTML and Core Accessibility API mappings
- Provide Accessible Name and Description computation and API mappings
- Add accessible HTML5 controls and new semantic elements
- Improve high contrast support
- Modernize caret browsing and new input modalities
- Improve visual impairment readability, focus, and selection
- Deliver developer tools for building and testing accessible sites
- Longer term investments like the Web Speech API and script-based accessibility
In addition to using telemetry and feedback to identify the top reliability and performance bugs, Microsoft laid out some details for what it considers to be the browser’s fundamentals. Specifically, the company plans to focus on the following in 2016:
- Advance product security across multiple dimensions
- Enhance keyboard scrolling performance and interactivity
- Isolate Adobe Flash into a separate process and pause unnecessary content
- Continue to push the GPU boundaries through native Windows graphics
- Improve background tab suspension, timers, and processing
By examining the standards spec stability and maturity, requests with real-world scenarios from its partners and web developer community, and data collected via the Bing crawler from hundreds of millions of websites, Microsoft has started development on the following technologies:
- ES2016 Modules
- Fetch API (a component technology of Service Worker; initial implementation will focus on XHR-style scenarios)
- Web Notifications (integrated with the Windows 10 Action Center)
- Beacon API
- WOFF 2.0
- High Resolution Time Level 2
- Future ECMAScript proposals — Array.prototype.includes, String.prototype.padStart, String.prototype.padEnd, Object.values, Object.entries
- JS pipeline improvements for future WebAssembly work
- Drag and Drop Directories (a subset of the deprecated FileSystem API) for interoperability with existing folder upload scenarios. To standardize folder upload scenarios in the future, work with the Directory Upload specification at the WICG will continue
- Explorations and prototyping on technologies such as Service Worker and the Push API.
Microsoft also shared three new standards the company expects to mature this year: FIDO 2.0 proposals (for being able to use Windows Hello to log into websites) are going to W3C in November; W3C’s Web Payments Working Group is considering different proposals for an API to allow integrated payments using services hosted by the browser; and ECMA’s TC39 committee is developing features for ECMAScript 2016.
Lastly, Microsoft said it plans to expand the ways it communicates with the web community but didn’t reveal anything aside from saying it has “exciting projects in the works that will make it easier for developers to share and track interoperability issues, and access more of the data we use to make decisions about which web technologies we’ll support and when.”