Browsers have become the killer app – well, the killer platform. The underlying OS has less and less value, and the Chrome OS shows the browser is really all that’s needed. Browser vendors and the standards community have worked very hard to make sure the experience and capabilities of the browser platform can deliver this new reality.
As extensive as capabilities are within the browser, there’s often a need to do more or do something in a specialized way. That’s where browser extensibility comes in to play. If browsers did everything we ever needed, there would be no reason to build extensibility. But we don’t know what we need until we need it, and extensibility models enable developers to build out those new features or expand browser capabilities.
When Microsoft Edge was first released, extensions were listed as ‘coming soon’. When extension support was delivered, the experience was limited. Now a year later, extensions for Edge are more readily available but the collection is still lagging well behind those available for Chrome and Firefox. As Microsoft explained in their recent blog post, this was by design. They wanted to ensure a high-quality experience, so they worked closely with certain partners to curate the collection.
This process makes sense…more isn’t always better; Microsoft knows this well, having learned from years of Internet Explorer stability and performance issues, 3rd party tools can be at fault, but the blame is placed on the browser regardless. The extension collection has grown slowly and surely over the past year. As Microsoft wrote, they focused on consumer scenarios – “We heard loud and clear that extensions like ad blockers, password managers, and key productivity enhancements are important to our customers to make the browser meet their needs.”
None of these initial scenarios are enterprise scenarios, and given the ground Microsoft needs to regain on Chrome, it makes sense to me for them to focus on making Edge a success with consumers first. I don’t believe Edge can be enterprise ready until Microsoft finishes delivering business application extensions too. That’s coming, and business application extensions will be able to leverage the same process consumer application extensions have been using this past year.
I’ve noticed a deeper and more frequent set of questions around Edge in talking with enterprise customers over the past several months. People are interested in taking a serious look at Edge, but past trials have shown some core limitations around enterprise application readiness – business application functionality and compatibility mainly. With the work Microsoft has been doing on extension support that should start to sort itself out soon. Microsoft has continued to keep a tighter set of controls and a curated process on extensions for Edge, and they have made it much easier for enterprise tool developers to bring the missing tools to market.
I’d say for those who have made the switch to Windows 10 and used Chrome as their modern browser of choice, it’s a good time to think about Edge. Take a look at where the browser has come since release, even in the past year alone, and you’ll see a much more business friendly tool. As the extensions start to come online over the coming months it will truly grow to be enterprise ready. For now, start putting it through the paces so you know what it needs and are ready to offer it to users when the final pieces come together.
Browsium Founder and Chairman