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Microsoft shows off how Edge browser can quickly import extensions from Chrome

Mark Hachman | April 6, 2016
Edge may be far behind other browsers in the eyes of users, but the race isn't over just yet.

Rory Fairweather, a program manager at Microsoft responsible for Microsoft Edge’s extensions, said that extensions have been the most requested feature for Edge. No wonder, as they’ve been in other browsers for years. 

What’s interesting, though, is that developers will apparently be able to easily port extensions from Chome, either through a tool that Microsoft will provide or, as Fairweather did, by changing a line or two of code. “We’re creating a porting tool for extensions on another browser, with minimal changes, and we’ll be sharing more information on that very soon,” Fairweather said.

As an example, Fairweather took a OneNote Clipper extension developed for Chrome, and ported it to Edge. Developers will be able to call standardized APIs that other browsers use, but also APIs that will be specific to Edge, including changing basic icons, messaging between components, networking, and more. 

Sandboxing for Flash coming soon 

Much of the Edge developer conference recapped what Microsoft has said before, including that communication protocols like WebRTC are coming soon to allow real-time communication in the browser. Microsoft also has several “prototype investigations” underway into Web payments, ServiceWorker offline apps, and more. ServiceWorker also helps in-browser push notifications, a feature the Edge team is investigating but that Google’s Chrome developers apparently have given up on

Microsoft edge notifications
Here’s an early look at an in-browser Edge notification.

Security has been one of the driving forces of Edge. The browser was built from the ground up with security in mind, specifically isolating and sandboxing processes to minimize any possible damage using what Microsoft calls AppContainers. Within an AppContainer, the code is prevented from reading or writing to the system as well as any higher-priority processes, according to David Weston, a senior security tester for Microsoft. Weston said that in an upcoming version of Edge, Flash processes will be effectively isolated in their own AppContainers. 

Rob Trace, a senior program manager at Microsoft, also revealed why biometric support has been slow to roll out across Edge and its interaction with Web sites. Microsoft’s Edge uses an “early implementation” of the FIDO specification, which isn’t totally compatible with the finished version. Over time, it will be, allowing users to tap into Windows Hello to log in with their face or fingerprint and validate themselves over the Web, he said. 

“It’s great for prototyping, it’s great for determining how the final model will work,” Trace said of the current FIDO implementation within Edge.

 

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