Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Edge browser is now in beta

Microsoft today launched the first beta builds of its new Chromium-based Edge browser for Windows and Mac. The new beta channel, which will see a new update roughly every six weeks, will join the existing dev and canary channels, which will continue to see daily and weekly updates, respectively.

Over the course of the last few months of preview releases in the existing channels, Microsoft gathered about 140,000 pieces of feedback. With this — and a sufficient amount of telemetry it also received from early adopters — the company now feels that it knows enough about how well Edge works on a wide range of machines and that it is stable enough for enthusiasts, web developers and business users to give it a try before its wider release.

“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,” Microsoft explains in today’s announcement. “Major version updates can be expected roughly every six weeks, alongside periodic minor updates for bug fixes and security.”

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At this point, Microsoft has also put all of the infrastructure in place to update the browser and tested it thoroughly through the early preview phase. If need be, that means the team can release an unscheduled beta when it discovers a bug and know that its update systems will work just fine.

Just like Chrome, Firefox and most other browsers, Microsoft will continue to test new features in the canary and developer builds before enabling them in the beta builds. The current canary build, for example, features a very useful global media control button that lets you control YouTube, Spotify and other video and music services without having to switch tabs. Features like this will come to the beta channel in the coming months.

Also available in the beta, but currently behind a flag, are Microsoft’s tracking-prevention features. Soon, the beta build will also get support for collections, Microsoft’s modern take on bookmarks, though as far as I can tell, that feature isn’t currently enabled in the canary and developer releases yet either (Correction: it went live in the canary release with this update). Other new features that’ll soon make their way to the beta are Internet Explorer mode for those companies that still use legacy applications that rely on Microsoft’s old, pre-Edge browser.

With this release, Microsoft is also launching a security bounty program for Edge. Security researchers who find and disclose any high-impact vulnerabilities in the beta and dev channel releases are eligible for rewards of up to $15,000.

As a Microsoft spokesperson stressed in an interview ahead of today’s release, the team is also quite happy about the fact that it has now contributed more than 1,000 commits to the Chromium project. That project is mostly led by Google engineers, but it’s good to see that Microsoft’s plans for ramping up its contributions are paying off. By moving to Chromium, Microsoft gave up developing its own engine. At the time, the company argued that continuing to invest in an engine that only had a few users wasn’t exactly useful in keeping the overall web ecosystem healthy, and that it could have more impact by working on Chromium instead. That work, it seems, is starting to pay off now.

As the team told me, a lot of the work so far has gone into bringing Edge to beta status and making sure that all of the core features are working. That means you won’t see a lot of features in the browser that really set Edge apart from the competition (Collections are a good example here). As those core features become ever more stable, though, we’ll see the team focus more on tools and features that will differentiate Edge from the likes of Chrome.

Personally, I switched to the new Edge shortly after the first developer and canary releases and have been on the daily update channel ever since. Despite its preview status, the browser has been very stable on both Windows 10 and the Mac. Some versions were better than others, but I didn’t experience and major blocking bugs in the process, and Edge has proven to be a fast and stable browser. That bodes well for the beta program.