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Edge Features Coming in 2016: Performance, Extensions, Accessibility, and Web Standards

Recently, Microsoft shared a few details about the features that they have been working on for the Edge browser. The focus is on the developers, but most of what was unveiled also trickled down to the users.

Due the fact that this happens to be a developer update, Microsoft talks about EdgeHTML, the rendering engine. EdgeHTML and Edge have different version numbers and were built by different teams that happened to work closely together.

Microsoft states that they have five different priorities for this year, which their product focus and standards body engagements revolve around.

  • Empower all Edge customers through inclusive design and accessibility
  • Thoughtfully build for the web’s future
  • Embrace more channels for community participation and feedback
  • Deliver a more modern extension platform that is powered by web technologies and the Windows store
  • Continue to reinforce Edge fundamentals: performance, efficiency, and security

Microsoft already promised to add extensions to Edge. The extensions were supposed to be released in 2015, but were delayed.

Unlike the add-ons for IE, Edge’s extension platform is powered by Web Technologies. All of the extensions are vetted, delivered, and managed through the Windows store. Microsoft still does not have any date for when extension support will be introduced, but they have promised to share the early examples via the Windows Insider Program.

When it comes to accessibility features, Microsoft has begun to develop major improvements focused on these goals:

  • Enable HTML and Core Accessibility API mappings
  • Modernize the accessibility system to support CSS3 and HTML5 on Windows 10
  • Add accessible HTML5 controls and new semantic elements
  • Provide Accessible Name and Description computation and API Mappings
  • Modernize caret browsing and new input modalities
  • Improve high contrast support
  • Deliver developer tools for building and testing sites
  • Longer term investments such as Web Speech API and script-based accessibility
  • Improve visual impairment readability, selection, and focus

Additionally, using telemetry and feedback in order to identify the reliability and performance bugs, Microsoft laid out details for what it considers the fundamentals of the browser. Specifically, Microsoft plans to focus on the following during 2016:

  • Improve background tab suspension, processing, and timers
  • Continue to push the GPU boundaries through Windows graphics
  • Isolate Adobe Flash into separate process, as well as pause unneeded content
  • Enhance keyboard scrolling interactivity and performance
  • Advance product security across multiple dimensions
  • Lead the industry in JavaScript benchmark performance

Microsoft then talked about what the developers really care about, which is web standards. As the company pointed out, HTML, JavaScript, and CSS have more than 300 W3C specifications and over 400 member organizations, and no browser actually implements all of them.

By being able to examine the standard spec stability and maturity, the request with real-world scenarios from the web developer community and data collected via Bing crawler from millions of sites, Microsoft has begun to develop the following:

  • WOFF 2.0
  • ES2016 Modules
  • Push API and Service Worker
  • Drag and drop directories and directory upload
  • Future ECMAScript proposals
  • JS pipeline improvements
  • Beacon API
  • High Resolution Time Level 2
  • Fetch API
  • Web notifications

Microsoft even shared three new standards that the company expects to mature in 2016.

  • Accepting FIDO 2.0 proposals from companies like Google and PayPal to enable the users to use Windows Hello to log in to sites that endorse the APIs. These will be dealt with at W3C in November.
  • W3C’s web payments working group is considering proposals for an API that will allow integrated payments using services hosted by a browser.
  • ECMA’s TC39 committee has been developing new features for ECMAScript 2016.

Microsoft also states that it plans to expand the way that it will communicate with the web community, but did not actually reveal anything specific. They just stated that exciting projects that will make certain things much easier for developers. For instance, the developers will be able to track and share interoperability issues and even access more data used to make decisions about which web technologies Microsoft will support and it when it will happen.

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