At its Build developers conference in Seattle, Microsoft announced three new features it plans to deliver as part of its upcoming release of Microsoft Edge based on the open-source Chromium project. The new features are specifically targeted at PCs running Edge on Windows 10; there's no indication that these features will be ported to Edge releases planned for MacOS and older Windows versions.
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For enterprise administrators who are stuck with age-old line-of-business apps, the addition of Internet Explorer mode will be a make-or-break part of the upgrade decision. Internet Explorer mode, which has been part of Edge for Windows 10 since 2015, allows businesses to configure a PC to use Edge as the default browser while specifying a list of apps and websites that require legacy Internet Explorer-based features.
In current Edge releases, Internet Explorer mode opens those legacy pages in a separate browser window. Microsoft says the implementation in the new Edge will integrate those pages directly into the default browser window as new Internet Explorer tabs. A similar functionality is available in Google Chrome using the IE Tab extension.
Microsoft also announced the new Edge will include additional privacy controls that will restrict the ability of third parties to track user actions in browser sessions. The new controls will reportedly offer three settings: Unrestricted, Balanced, and Strict. Here's a shot of a "preliminary concept" of the user experience as shown in today's demo.
The functionality is similar to third-party ad- and tracker-blocking extensions like Ghostery and AdBlock Plus.
Emphasizing privacy allows Microsoft to differentiate its browser from Google's market-leading Chrome product, which is also based on Chromium code. Ad blockers and privacy trackers are a key category in the marketplace for browser extensions, and alternative browsers like Brave have made it their key competitive advantage.
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A similar feature, called Privacy Filtering, was originally planned for Internet Explorer 8. As designed, it would have set the browser to automatically block most tracking tools unless a user deliberately opted for less privacy. At the time, however, Microsoft was fresh off its acquisition of the aQuantive advertising platform, which was rebranded as Microsoft Advertising, and executives ordered that the feature be removed from the final product. (For more on that history, see "Good Microsoft versus Bad Microsoft on privacy.")
Microsoft says the new Edge will include an organizational feature called Collections, which the company touts as an antidote to information overload. The feature will reportedly allow Edge users to "collect, organize, share and export content more efficiently and with Office integration."
Finally, a shout-out to developers who've built websites or extensions that rely on Chromium-based features. "We're ensuring they'll see the same compatibility in the Edge browser without additional work." That's a pretty big promise, and one that skeptical developers of websites and web-based apps will be watching closely as the new Edge moves slowly toward a public preview release later this year.
The Chromium-based Edge is currently available in early test builds aimed at developers. Microsoft did not offer a timeline for the new features, saying only the new features "will begin to roll out over time as we get closer to the broader launch of the next version of Microsoft Edge."