February 3, 2016 10:00 am

Looking ahead: Microsoft Edge for developers in 2016

By / Director of Program Management, Microsoft Edge

Recently, in “Looking back: Microsoft Edge for developers in 2015,” we shared the priorities which guided our development in 2015, what we delivered with Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge, and shared some of the ways we measure success. Today, we would like to talk about where we’re heading with EdgeHTML in 2016.

2016 priorities for EdgeHTML

We’ve been immersing ourselves in your feedback, reviewing development trends, and meeting with partners and developers around the globe to inform where we take EdgeHTML next. We want to ensure we’re focusing on the most impactful work! In the spirit of continuing our opennness, we’d like to share our priorities for 2016:

  1. Deliver a modern extension platform powered by web technologies and the Windows Store
  2. Empower all Microsoft Edge customers through accessibility and inclusive design
  3. Continue to reinforce Microsoft Edge fundamentals; security, performance and efficiency
  4. Build thoughtfully for the future of the web
  5. Embrace more channels for community feedback and participation

Over the next year you’ll see our product focus and standards body engagements revolve around these five priorities. Let’s take a brief look at what each priority means to us, along with some initial features in these areas that are going “in development” today.

Extensions

Last year, we announced our intent to deliver a new extension platform for Microsoft Edge to replace the often unreliable and insecure native add-ons of the past. Extensions are among the most requested features for Microsoft Edge and we’re building an extension platform powered by web technologies and familiar to developers. Any browser extensibility is a potential vector for malicious software, and our extensions will be vetted, delivered, and managed through the Windows Store.

Our implementation is underway and we look forward to sharing early examples soon via the Windows Insider Program. We will share more information on developing and publishing your own extensions at a later date…

Accessibility

We have often underscored our commitment to interoperability using the motto “the web should just work for everyone.” Everyone includes not just every browser and every device, but every person, regardless of ability. This is a Microsoft-wide priority in 2016:

“…top of mind for me heading into 2016 is how we must make Microsoft products accessible to the more than 1 billion people globally of all abilities.”

— Satya Nadella

Back in September, we published Accessibility: Towards a more inclusive web with Microsoft Edge and Windows 10, outlining the state of support for popular assistive technologies in Microsoft Edge and sharing our roadmap to improve that support. We’re devoting more resources than ever to that task in 2016, and are committed to making Microsoft Edge a first-class accessible experience for browsing the web whether you’re using Windows’ built in Narrator or 3rd party assistive technologies.

Our initial focus in 2016 will be on a few key areas that we think will have the biggest impact and lay a strong foundation for later improvements. We have begun development on major improvements focused on these goals:

  • Modernize our 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.

We’re also investigating longer term investments like the Web Speech API and script-based accessibility. We plan to share more details about our accessibility improvements in future posts on the topic.

Fundamentals

While web developers have a responsibility to write safe and functional code, ultimately the browser is responsible for ensuring that code doesn’t harm the user or breach their trust, that it performs as expected, and that doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on system stability or battery life. While these are all areas that are never “done,” we will continue to focus on fundamentals in 2016, including:

  • Lead the industry in JavaScript benchmark performance (good luck catching us).
  • Advance product security across multiple dimensions (lots of surprises coming).
  • 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.

In addition to these highlights, we’re continually poring over telemetry and feedback to identify the top reliability and performance bugs impacting users, and fixing them as quickly as possible. We plan to share more details on how we identify and act on the top real-world issues in future posts.

Building for the future of the web

Web standards are tricky business – HTML, CSS & JavaScript consist of more than 300 W3C specifications from over 400 member organizations. No browser implements every standard, and in fact more than a third of web standards aren’t implemented by any of the most popular browsers.

Venn diagram of APIs supported in Microsoft Edge and Chrome plotted against web standards specifications. Only a relatively small subset of standardized APIs make up the interoperable intersection of the two browsers.

APIs supported in Microsoft Edge and Chrome plotted against web standards specifications. Only a relatively small subset of standardized APIs make up the interoperable intersection of the two browsers.

Despite this, it’s fashionable to measure browsers based on the number of new APIs they support. While this can be a useful yardstick, we believe a measure of thoughtfulness is important in choosing which technologies to implement, and at what pace.

Our goal is to find the right approach to implementing new web standards features that may undergo rapid evolution, potentially causing unneeded turbulence for web developers (e.g. Flexbox or WebRTC/ObjectRTC), or may gather popularity and then be abandoned for various reasons (e.g. Object.observe() or SMIL).

Though it’s not an exact science, we use a combination of examining the standards spec stability and maturity, requests with real-world scenarios from our partners and web developer community, and data collected via the Bing crawler from hundreds of millions of websites when determining which standards to implement next.

With this in mind, we have begun development on these technologies:

In addition to the above, we’re implementing Drag and Drop Directories (a subset of the deprecated FileSystem API) for interoperability with existing folder upload scenarios. To standardized folder upload scenarios in the future, we continue to work with the Directory Upload specification at the WICG.

We’re also beginning initial explorations and prototyping on some work that we expect to span multiple releases and involve standards iteration. These technologies include Service Worker and the Push API. We’re excited about evolving our Hosted Web App platform using these technologies to cover more offline scenarios.

In addition, we remain excited about the potential of Web Components and outlined our vision for Web Components in Microsoft Edge last year. We intend to prototype Shadow DOM next as we conclude investments rearchitecting our DOM, but we expect it to be a long term investment as the standards stabilize.

Finally, we’re looking forward to exciting new standards maturing in 2016:

  • FIDO 2.0: We worked with Google, PayPal, and others to submit FIDO 2.0 proposals to W3C in November. As we refine and implement these standards in Microsoft Edge you will be able to use Windows Hello to log-in to web sites that adopt the APIs.
  • Web Payments: Web Payments is another area we expect to see progress. W3C’s Web Payments Working Group is considering different proposals for an API to allow integrated payments using services hosted by the browser.
  • ECMAScript 2016: We will continue to deeply engage in ECMA’s TC39 committee to develop features for ECMAScript 2016 and beyond, including Async Functions, which is already implemented behind experimental flags in preview builds of Microsoft Edge today.

This is a small highlight of the dozens of standards we’re developing together with the industry, and these features will begin to appear in nightly builds soon. There’s always more to come with web standards and this is just a highlight of what’s on the way!

Opening up to the community

In addition to product focus areas, we’re also excited to expand on ways that we can share and interact openly with the web community. We have 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.

As always, we welcome and encourage your feedback. You can follow our progress through our blog and Platform Status pages, vote on technologies you’d like to see implemented on our Platform Suggestion Box on Uservoice, or simply reach out to @MSEdgeDev on Twitter.

We’re excited about what 2016 holds, and look forward to building the web with you!

– Jason Weber, Director of Program Management, Microsoft Edge

Join the conversation

  1. Really impressive post, Team Edge. It is great to see the laser focus and commitment on the open standards. This is a far cry from a decade ago and you should be applauded and duly recognized. You have accomplished a lot and it has not gone unnoticed.

    On that note, it would be great to see that same commitment and focus applied to existing parts of MSFT and enabling innovation towards existing (and upcoming) technologies that groups are working on, namely .NET and .NET Core.

    There is a serious divide currently in MSFT between web and native (.NET) technologies and it would be nothing short of a grand, innovative accomplishment to bridge the two areas. Please consider doing this by working with Visual Studio team on their #1 hottest rated idea currently on UserVoice: http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio-2015/suggestions/10027638-create-a-ubiquitous-net-client-application-develo

    Thank you for any consideration, and continue the great work! There need to be more great posts like these to show all the great work happening and going on in your group.

  2. Great post.

    One of my biggest gripes with Windows 10 on my Surface Pro 4 device is that Edge will let rogue webpages with lots of CPU intensive (usually adware) JavaScript keep using my processor and therefore draining the device’s batteries. Obviously ad blockers through extensions will go some way in mitigating this but I think Edge should do more to protect a device’s battery life and prevent websites from wrecking it.

    Also I do not understand why Edge still supports Flash. Even Adobe is dissociating itself from that plug-in, Apple has removed it from the base OS X install and I have been using my MacBook Pro with Safari without it for the last 2 years. If a website still requires it I’m quite happy to browse away. Instead of spending effort in trying to spin the plug-in out of Edge’s process you should kill it and put the effort on other features that are more future proof. If a user needs Flash they can always resort to Internet Explorer like they do for Silverlight.

  3. All of the changes to the Edge rendering engine mean very little when it does not appear that the browser is receiving the necessary updates to make it functional, much less competitive. Features like bookmarklets, drag-drop URLs from address bar, and touch-drag support for forward-back navigation just to name a few, are all still missing from Edge. While I appreciate the advances made on the rendering side, the browser is missing so many features compared to Chrome and Firefox that it is difficult for me to use it or recommend it as anyone’s primary browser.

    • Indeed, the engine seems to be making great progress, but the browser around it is missing a lot of features and we rarely hear anything about what’s being worked on. It’s unfortunate that Edge still appears to be tied to the Windows release schedule so whatever improvements you are working on are still quite a long way off.

  4. Is there any work being done on memory utilization? I routinely see individual tabs creeping up past the 1 GB mark, and in general, Edge seems to use much more RAM than IE (and Chrome and much, much more than Firefox).

    Will extensions bring the functionality to run Flash only when the user asks, rather than on-demand when the page requests it?

  5. This is great! I especially love that you shared your plans regarding Service Workers, Fetch, Push, Web Speech and Web Notifications.

    One thing that bugs me –
    > This is a small highlight of the dozens of standards we’re developing together with the industry
    Can you share all of them? Or more of them?
    I would like to see a page that shows your interest in the developing standards, even those without a concrete API at the moment and even those that not a single browser has implemented. I do not mean that it would have a list of mailing list threads (or GitHub issues), of course. I mean, something like that –
    The team is interested in the following standards (these are just pseudo names and levels. not a preference) –
    – CSS Containment level 3
    – CSS Fragmentation level 3
    – CSS Intrinsic Sizes level 3

    The list would not mean that there is any obligation to add these into Microsoft Edge, but engaging in standards does mean you are interested in them and are looking into starting development for them, even a year from now or later.

  6. Really looking forward to seeing Edge become a browser that supports HTML5! – You say that’s already the case? No missing standards to be HTML5 “compliant”, already? I say: before implementing new features, implement SVG correctly, first (at least those parts of the SVG standard that you had already implemented correctly since IE9):

    https://connect.microsoft.com/IE/Feedback/Details/1567173
    https://connect.microsoft.com/IE/Feedback/Details/2023492
    https://connect.microsoft.com/IE/Feedback/Details/1571965

    With the regressions you added to IE11 on Windows 10 (https://connect.microsoft.com/IE/feedback/details/2337112/svg-use-elements-disappear-on-windows-10) there is no Microsoft browser left on Windows 10 that supports non-trivial SVG. Please change that so that people can finally switch from their third party browsers to Edge under Windows 10 – If you want Edge to succeed, implementing new features and staying up to date is certainly important. But you will only make developers trust Edge and MS if you fix those long-standing blocking severe bugs in old standards or at least respond to our bug reports.

    Thanks for listening.
    (If you want to use SVG on Edge, too, please consider taking a look at the bug reports above and see if you can reproduce them – then add your vote to these and all the other important open bugs that developers have been reporting against Edge in an effort to help make Edge better!)

  7. Wow that sure is a impressive list, I’d be happy if Edge let me sign into windows live (currently it tells me cookies are required, which are of course fully on??), I have to use chrome to login into Azure, this blog page and anything Microsoft?

  8. Don’t know much about the list of things you have said you will work on, but how about allowing a user to see their passwords in the manage password section in Edge? It is bad enough you have to click three times to get to this section, but then you have to go to control panel, go to credential manager, then click on the password you want to see, oh but then you have to put in your password for Microsoft in order to see that password. It’s all a little ridiculous! Firefox had it where you could click only a couple of times then there were your passwords – on line – one didn’t have to go offline to pull up passwords! I don’t use passwords offline, I use them while I am on the internet. Cannot fathom why anyone thought this was a good idea and I truly have tried to understand why this was made part of Edge or Windows. After several clicks, when you get to Manage Passwords – what good is it to have the website, along with your user name then you get ….. and then it asks you do you want to save it? Save what? You can’t see anything!!! Totally useless! PLEASE FIX THIS!!!

  9. Dear All,
    Hope you guys are doing fine. As we all know and as we read above MS Edge and other browsers are ending up the support for ActiveX controls and Plugins as well. I have an application that is rich with ActiveX controls So I need to ask you about the replacements for ActiveX controls so that I can re-engineer my application. Also we are going for Cross Browsers so Is there any generic solution i-e compatible to every browser available?
    Help would be much appreciated.

    Thanks In advance.

  10. One of the barriers we see often for our users with visual impairments is that access to math is really problematic. We still have users who need screenreader access to math having to use Internet Explorer 9 with MathPlayer in order to get JAWS to read it. Will Edge have the ability for screenreaders to read MathML within the browser?

  11. It’s all a little ridiculous Firefox had it where you could click only a couple of times then there were your passwords on line one didn’t have to go offline to pull up passwords I don’t use passwords offline I use them while I am on the internet.

  12. Seems like a lot of nice features, are there some release dates set up?