Microsoft has now revealed that its new Edge browser, driven by the same Blink engine found in Chrome and Chromium-based alternatives, is now available for use by a much wider group of testers from the general populace. Those are available in a Canary and Developer configuration via the companies dedicated Microsoft Edge Insider page. A more typical Beta version should be forthcoming in the foreseeable future as well.
For now, users will need to have a Windows 10 PC or laptop. Support is planned "over time" for other operating systems including both macOS and flavors of Windows that Microsoft still officially supports. The software is still in its early stages with the Canary builds following in the footsteps of Google Chrome and receiving daily updates compared to the Developer builds weekly updates.
Key current drawbacks to the browser include limited support for features and languages. For the time being, that means that users won't necessarily be able to use the browser because of language barriers. All of that will come later, alongside visual changes, better support for extensions, and better sign-in management.
What this update is
The new announcement follows a closed-natured preview of the new browser that was launched back in March. The download for the installer was available to everybody but was limited to a small number of users on the "Insider track" with Azure developer or Microsoft employee credentials.
At the time, some users who potentially fit the bill for that test commented that it may have been pulled because it seems to have not been available to even all of the users meeting those requirements. This update is still being pushed through that same Insider program but Microsoft has specified it's available to just about anybody who wants to try out the browser ahead of launch or developers.
Initial leaks of the browser point to a take on edge that much more closely resembles Chrome itself but with a coat of fresh Microsoft paint and ready access to Bing instead of Chrome by default. The browser is also reported widely as having full access to either a Microsoft-built extensions storefront or — with a toggle in settings — access to the full Chrome Web Store for the same purpose.
That's not surprising since the purpose behind Microsoft's decision to move to a Chromium base is not only to ensure compatibility for websites across the internet but also to ensure extensions are easy to migrate across browsers. Summarily, the company is hoping to make life easier for developers and users alike.
Beyond that shift in direction, the company has taken the opportunity presented by the most recent release to reiterate and showcase another aspect of its work with Chromium. Namely, the company plans to use its expertise in software to improve Chromium as well as taking improvements from Chromium. So far, that's meant improvements in "accessibility, touch, ARM64, and others" Microsoft says.
When does this launch?
There's still no firm launch date for the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser and the company is quick to remind its loyal user base that there are no changes to be expected on non-beta channels of that just yet. The release only represents a widening of the testing base, allowing Microsoft to garner feedback about the browser from a more general subset of users than previous releases.
The company is still looking for feedback about stock features and changes users want to see in the final initial release. That's in addition to the more standard bugs and other issues users might stumble on during daily browsing activities. So there's likely still a substantial amount of time remaining before the software is released to primary users.