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Microsoft Cites Progress for its Edge Web Browser

Microsoft gave a progress report this week on its relatively new Edge browser.

Members of the technical team provided the details during the Microsoft Edge Web Summit event, which took place in San Francisco on Monday. The Edge browser shipped on July 29 and has been activated on 150 million devices after about eight months' time, according to Charles Morris of the Edge team.

Morris added that the Edge browser was a little ahead of the Google Chrome browser when comparing the first seven months of use, citing StatCounter analysis.

However, these stats don't appear to be publicly available. Publicly accessible tracking sites typically just show the use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser vs. other browsers, omitting Edge.

The one exception is the U.S. government's Digital Analytics Program, which shows Edge as having a 2.5 percent use rate among browsers accessing U.S. government sites. The leaders, according to the Digital Analytics Program site, are Google Chrome (43 percent), Apple Safari (21.7 percent), Internet Explorer (20.3 percent) and Mozilla Firefox (8.2 percent).

Other publicly accessible tracking sites vary widely in their estimates. IE is either just ahead of Chrome (according to Net Applications data) or IE is badly trailing Chrome (per StatCounter data).

Microsoft has been frequently updating Edge, which happens through the Windows Update service. Over the past eight months, the Edge team has shipped 12 updates.

In total, Microsoft has delivered 120 new features and 6,527 bug fixes to Edge, Morris said. The team also is heavily focused on addressing reliability issues. Crash-free Edge sessions are at 99 percent to 95 percent levels over six months' time, Morris said.

Bug Tracking
Microsoft has a new bug-tracking site to better report problems and track Edge platform issues, which is integrated into the Edge engineering team's processes. The public also can use this site to see if a particular browser bug is under code review by Microsoft.

The new bug-tracking site is an improvement over the Microsoft Connect site, which had involved "database gymnastics" to file bug reports, according to Colleen Williams, a program manager with the Microsoft Edge team. She said that Microsoft has a full team that goes out and talks to people about browser issues. There's a team of 35 people at Microsoft that performs manual testing of sites, going about 10 pages deep into a site, she added. The team will contact the Web site's owners about any broken aspects. The No. 1 problem area is the use of user agent strings on sites to identify browsers, she said.

Microsoft tracks User Voice ratings to prioritize the feedback about the Edge browser. It gets about 15,000 pieces of feedback per day. Microsoft tests it all. Out of the bugs that are found, Microsoft has a 53 percent fix rate, Williams said.

Web developers have two new tools. They can find out about overall API use on sites via Microsoft's new platform data site tracker. Microsoft uses Bing to scan over a million pages, checking for "correctly formatted CSS properties" to gather these stats. It's also possible to check how Edge tracks with other browsers in terms of standards support via Microsoft's new API Catalog visualization page, which produces a Venn diagram comparison chart.

Testing and Standards
Mac OS and Linux developers will be able to tap a new "Remote Edge" service, which allows them to stream a browser session for testing purposes. It streams from Azure and doesn't require that developers run a virtual machine to do their testing work.

Morris showed off a streamed session of Edge using Remote App, which was hosted on Google Chrome running on Windows. He said this Remote Edge service had a zero-overhead impact on the machine. This Remote Edge solution will be "coming very soon," he added.

In terms of meeting HTML5 test scores, Edge is second only to Google Chrome, according to Jacob Rossi, a program manager for Microsoft Edge. Microsoft has fixed more than 8,000 interoperability issues since IE 11, he added. Previously, IE was about 70 percent compatible with the top Web sites. However, the Microsoft Edge browser is sitting well over IE in terms of compatibility without shimming, Rossi said.

He also described new API support coming to Edge, including:

  • Speech Synthesis API
  • Fetch API for generalizing network requests and responses
  • A Beacon or Network API, which is useful for telemetry where a response from the user is not necessary
  • Web Notifications API, which raises notifications in the Windows Action Center

Microsoft will be bringing support for the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) 2.0 to the Edge browser. It adds additional compressibility for fonts used on the Web, with about 30 percent savings over WOFF 1.0, Rossi said.

Edge Extensions
Microsoft released a preview of extensions capability for its Edge browser last month. With extensions, small programs can be run within the browser. It's a capability that's present in most browsers, including IE, but it has been lagging in Edge.

The Edge extensions preview is currently available for Windows Insider program participants that are using Windows 10 build 14291. It just works with three extensions that have to be downloaded, but Microsoft eventually intends to house Edge extensions in its Windows Store, which will be easier to add to the browser.

Rossi said that extensions for Edge are based on a platform where it will be easy for developers to migrate Chrome extensions to Edge extensions. Microsoft has been working to standardize the APIs involved. Microsoft joined a new Worldwide Web Consortium's (W3C's) Browser Extensions Community Group, according to Rory Fairweather, a program manager for Microsoft Edge.

Fairweather demonstrated how to take an extension that was created for Google Chrome, called OneNote Clipper, and convert it so that it works with the Edge browser. The new Edge extension APIs will be compatible with other browsers, but some of them will be specific to Edge, Fairweather said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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