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Edge is coming (and Winter is here)

Posted by: Seth Posted date:

On January 15th, Microsoft will officially release the new version of Edge. It’s not going to be an update to the new Edge browser they released in 2015, and it will be a different browser. Built on the Chromium rendering engine and fully standards-compliant. It will even have a different logo than the 2015 Edge browser. But they both have the same name. If only the potential for confusion could end there.

It’ll be evident that we applaud what Microsoft is doing here, and the release of ‘Chromium Edge’ is a huge step forward on so many levels. We’ve long felt that Microsoft could deliver more value by competing on features rather than a platform. By taking the Chromium rendering platform as its base, Microsoft has positioned itself to do exactly that. Expect to see tremendous feature-based competition now between Microsoft and Google. All while leveraging the same rendering components, ensuring that compatibility isn’t compromised while consumers and enterprise benefit from the features yet to be delivered.

In addition to the confusion of having two unequal browsers – identically named, there are many questions about the process surrounding the rollout of the ‘New’ Edge browser. 

Customers have been asking us things like:

  • What will happen to our existing ‘old’ Edge browser when the new one is released?
  • Can I install both on the same machine?
  • How do I stop users from using the ‘wrong’ Edge browser?
  • How can I stop the automatic rollout of the ‘new’ Edge browser?
  • What should I call the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Edge browsers?

And of course, we get asked about our support for the ‘new’ Edge version. That’s easy to answer. As with all previous browser releases from Microsoft, Browsium waits for the official released build to complete QA and end to end testing. That process takes a few weeks so we can ensure our customers have software validated with RTM bits and other components of the supported Window(s) platforms.

In terms of the other questions, let’s take a look at each of those:

What will happen on January 15th when ‘new’ Edge is released? 

The simple answer is nothing at first. Microsoft will begin to push the Edge update into the Automatic Updates channel ‘after’ the January 15th release. Once Microsoft makes the final bits available for download, it will be a manual process for people to get it. They won’t be pushing it down to clients via an automatic update or into the enterprise software distribution channels. Not yet, and not for a bit of time. The release date is simply the date at which it is available for download. You could decide to manually download on the 15th and push it to your organization, but that’s another discussion. Microsoft isn’t forcing it down on people.

Can ‘new’ Edge be installed along with ‘old’ Edge on the same machine? Yes. But not easily. When the ‘new’ Edge installs, the ‘old’ one is hidden. To enable the ‘side by side’ experience, you’ll need to fire up a Group Policy editor. Then go under Computer Configuration and “Administrative Templates>Microsoft Edge Update>Applications,” then enable the “Allow Microsoft Edge Side by Side browser experience” setting.

We expect this approach – hiding but not removing – the ‘old’ Edge browser may cause some errant behaviors. While we can’t be sure, there is a reasonable chance that some applications could access the legacy binaries. Those attempts to access the old binaries, whether for legitimate or nefarious purposes, should prompt concern from Information Security teams. For that reason, we encourage companies to understand their risks and determine potential exposure in this situation. Browsium will deliver a version of our Catalyst product shortly after the Jan 15th Edge release to provide organizations with the ability for more granular control over the ‘new’ and ‘old’ Edge launching behaviors.

How do I stop users from accessing the wrong Edge browser? Given that Microsoft is taking steps to hide the ‘old’ version of Edge when the ‘new’ version installs, customers should not expect end users to experience this issue. Also, administrators can prevent the ‘side by side’ experience to further reduce the risk of end-users launching the wrong binaries.

How can I stop the automatic rollout of the ‘new’ Edge browser? As with previous updates and releases, Microsoft has defined a robust process for controlling deployments. As noted in their documentation, a blocker toolkit is available for organizations with users potentially at risk of getting the update automatically. As indicated in the literature, only end-users running the Home or Pro builds of Windows 10, 1803, or newer, who are NOT attached to an Active Directory Domain, would potentially receive the update. Most organizations will not see many users falling into this area. While the blocker toolkit will prevent automatic installation of the ‘new’ Edge browser, it will not prevent manual installation by end-users, regardless of build or version. Organizations should rely on their software installation policies to avoid manual installation of the ‘new’ Edge binaries.

What should I call the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Edge browsers? This is most likely the area where guidance from Microsoft is lacking. The ‘new’ Edge browser has been codenamed ‘Anaheim’ so many developers use that label to distinguish it from the old ‘Spartan’ project version of Edge. While many names (and descriptions) exist for the two Edge browsers, the most commonly accepted appear settled on ‘Chromium’ Edge and ‘Classic’ Edge. Browsium will use the ‘Chromium’ and ‘Classic’ naming conventions in our products to distinguish between the two browsers.

Again, we applaud Microsoft for the work done to deliver this ‘new’ Edge browser to the market. Not only the technical and development efforts involved, but the business changes and internal alignment required to shift mindset for something like this requires a great deal of commitment and purpose. Having witnessed much of the ‘browser wars,’ this is an unthinkable turn of events back when Browsium began more than a decade ago. 

This solution will be right for the future of the web on many levels. We look forward to helping customers address the new set of challenges that we expect to see from the browser market as we look ahead to the next decade.

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