Microsoft is officially launching its new Edge Chromium browser today across both Windows and macOS. A stable version of the browser is now available for everyone to download, just over a year after the software maker revealed its plans to switch to Chromium. Microsoft is initially targeting Edge at enterprise users of Windows and macOS, but consumers will be able to manually download and install it, too.
In the coming months, Microsoft plans to automatically update Windows 10 users with this new version of Edge which will fully replace the existing built-in browser. The company is taking a slow and careful approach, bringing the new Edge gradually to groups of Windows 10 users through Windows Update before it’s fully rolled out to everyone in the summertime. Microsoft is also releasing this version of Edge to OEMs today, so expect to see machines start arriving in the back-to-school period with the new version of Edge preinstalled. Microsoft will eventually bake this directly into a future Windows 10 update, and it will be part of Windows 10X for foldable and dual-screen devices. An ARM64 version of Edge won’t be available today, but it’s expected to come to the stable channel shortly.
While Edge Chromium is available today, it’s also launching without some features you might be familiar with if you’re used to using Chrome. Both history sync and extension sync are missing at launch, but things like favorites, settings, addresses / contact info, and passwords will all sync. Microsoft is planning to have these missing sync features available later this year. The good thing is the rest of Edge is very similar to Chrome and even includes support for Chrome extensions. Where Edge differs is new features like Collections, which allows you to collate images and content from the web, and tracking prevention.
You can choose from three different levels to avoid being tracked on the web in Edge, and the default setting will block trackers from sites you haven’t visited before. This makes sure content and ads are less personalized and harmful trackers are blocked. There’s also a strict setting that blocks the majority of trackers on the web, but that could mean some parts of sites fail to load or might not work correctly. If you’re familiar with Ghostery, then Microsoft’s built-in protection Edge is similar.
So why even switch to Microsoft’s Edge Chromium browser? Microsoft is banking on enterprise users switching to get access to features like Internet Explorer mode, which lets businesses load legacy IE sites within Edge automatically. The added anti-tracking features, Collections, and support for 4K Netflix with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision will also be important differentiators over Chrome.
There’s also the aspect of trust and which browser company you want to trust with your browsing history and privacy. Google is phasing out third-party cookies and trackers in Chrome but not for two years. That gives Edge, Safari, Firefox, and others an opportunity to capitalize on web users who are a little more privacy-conscious. This alone won’t be enough to get everyone to switch away from Chrome, but Microsoft has a better opportunity than most with its Windows dominance in the enterprise and the fact Edge is now a lot more compatible with the web.
Compatibility is key, and it’s one of the big reasons why Microsoft chose Chromium in the first place. Chromium offers instant web compatibility, and it also allows Microsoft to bring its web browser elsewhere. Unusually, Microsoft is releasing Edge for Windows 7 today, even though it just went out of support. The company won’t say how long it will support Edge on Windows 7 for, but Google has committed to at least mid-2021. Edge is also arriving on Windows 8.1 and macOS, and it’s being updated on both Android and iOS.
Ultimately, the success of Edge Chromium could come down to whether it’s fully embraced by web developers and competitors like Google. During the beta period of Edge, we’ve seen both Google Meet and Google Stadia be inaccessible in Edge Chromium, despite working in both Chrome and beta versions of Chrome. Hopefully, this new version of Edge will prevent Chrome from turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 and restore some healthy browser competition to a market that is dominated by Chrome. It’s a good thing for consumers to have two tech giants competing to improve the web, as everyone gets a better web browser as a result.
If you’re interested in trying out the new Edge, you can download it for Windows or macOS over at Microsoft’s Edge site.
Instagram prototypes “Latest Posts” feature
Instagram users who miss the reverse chronological feed might get a new way to see the most recent pics and videos from who they follow. Instagram has been spotted internally prototyping a “Latest Posts” feature. It appears as a pop-up over the main feed and brings users to a special area showing the newest content from their network.
Instagram Latest Posts
For now, this doesn’t look like a full-fledged “Most Recent” reverse-chronological feed option like what Facebook has for the News Feed. But if launched, Latest Posts could help satisfy users who want to make sure they haven’t missed anything or want to know what’s going on right now.
The prototype was discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, the master of reverse engineering who’s provided tips to TechCrunch on scores of new features in development by tech giants. She generated the screenshots above from the code of Instagram’s Android app. “Welcome Back! Get caught up on the posts from [names of people you follow] and 9 more” reads the pop-up that appears over the home screen. If users tap “See Posts” instead of “Not Now”, they’re sent to a separate screen showing recent feed posts.
We’ve reached out to Instagram for a confirmation of the prototype, more details, and clarification on how Latest Posts would work. The company did not respond before press time. However, it has often confirmed the authenticity of Wong’s findings, and some of the features have gone on to officially launch months later.
Back in mid-2016, Instagram switched away from a reverse-chronological feed showing all the posts of people you follow in order of decency. Instead, it forced all users to scroll through a algorithmic feed of what it thinks you’ll like best, ranked based on who and what kind of content you interact with most. That triggered significant backlash. Some users thought they were missing posts or found the jumbled timestamps confusing. But since algorithmic feeds tend to increase engagement by ensuring the first posts you see are usually relevant, Instagram gave users no way to switch back.
Instagram previously tried to help users get assurance that they’d seen all the posts of their network with a “You’re All Caught Up” insert in the feed if you’d scrolled past everything from the past 48 hours. Latest Posts could be another way to let frequent Instagram users know that they’re totally up to date.
That might let people close the app in confidence and resume their lives.
Netflix begins streaming data-saving AV1 videos on Android
Netflix is rolling out support for the new AV1 video codec in its Android app, which the company claims compresses video 20 percent more efficiently than the VP9 codec it currently uses. The company says the codec can be enabled now for “selected titles” by enabling the “Save Data” option, although it doesn’t detail exactly which titles are supported. Eventually, Netflix says it plans to roll out AV1 on all its platforms, and is working with device and chipset manufacturers to broaden compatibility.
AV1 is important not just because it consumes less mobile data, but because the royalty-free video coding format has the support of the major tech players. The group behind the standard, the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), was founded in 2015 by a group of companies including Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Netflix, and in 2018 Apple joined their efforts. Apple is a particularly significant addition, since its devices don’t currently support the predominant VP9 standard, which is why you can’t watch YouTube in 4K on devices like the Apple TV or iPad Pro.
Although Netflix notes that the plan is to eventually use AV1 across all platforms, it sounds like the codec is still in its early stages. Restricting its use to the “Save Data” option, for example, suggests that it’s not the best choice for picture quality. And, as Engadget notes, enabling the codec for YouTube playback generates a warning that “Streaming AV1 in HD requires a powerful computer.” That makes us wonder how AV1-encoded Netflix videos will impact that battery life of our smartphones. There’s also the question of how many Android devices support the codec, which Netflix’s announcement doesn’t address. We have contacted Netflix to ask for additional detail and will update this article when we hear back.
Facebook’s dark mode has landed on more Android phones – check yours now
We’ve known for some time that Facebook is working on bringing a dark mode its mobile app, and there have already been tests that meant some people gained early access to the option. Now dark mode is rolling out to a large pool of users.
If you’re tired of being blinded by your phone when you check Facebook at night, this will be a welcome addition to the social networking app.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has already started to show signs of dark mode for mobile users, while on the web people are able to turn to a browser extension to gain darker hues. Following on from tests with small groups of users, the company is now testing its official dark mode with more people.
Android Police says it’s received numerous reports from people about being able to access dark mode, but it does seem that there is still work to be done. And with Facebook remaining tight-lipped about a its planned schedule, we can only speculate about when there will be a full-scale rollout.
At the moment it still appears that dark is very much a work in progress. People who have been lucky enough to gain access to the feature report that it seems to be unfinished, with the app switching between dark and normal modes in either different sections, or just at random.
While dark mode may not yet be quite ready for the big time, it’s clear that Facebook is busy working on perfecting it, so hopefully it won’t be too long until everyone can try it out for themselves.
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