Microsoft has begun prepping enterprises that may want to switch to an optional slower release cadence for the company’s Edge browser.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that Edge, which relies on the same core Chromium technologies as Google’s Chrome, would follow that rival in shortening the interval between releases to four weeks. (Prior to the announcement, Chrome and Edge updated every six to eight weeks.)
The first in the four-week cycle will be version 94 of both Chrome and Edge. Google plans to debut Chrome 94 on Sept. 21 with the follow-on v. 95 appearing Oct. 19. Meanwhile, Microsoft will launch Edge 94 on Sept. 23 and Edge 95 on Oct. 21. (Microsoft has gotten into the habit of releasing the same-numbered Edge two days after the comparable Chrome upgrade.)
Starting with version 94, Chrome and Edge will also offer what’s called an “Extended Stable” release that will use an eight-week interval rather than the default four. Obviously a sop to enterprise IT admins unhappy at the idea of a sped-up update tempo, Extended Stable releases will occur at every even-numbered version. The next Extended Stable releases will then be v. 96, v. 98 and so on for Edge (and Chrome).
By default, Edge will update automatically every four weeks. The eight-week interval is thus opt-in, with the opting requiring use of the as-yet-undocumented TargetChannel group policy on the part of admins, or alternately, Intune from the Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
(Organizations can also manually update Edge using Windows Server Update Services, or WSUS.)
Some details about how Microsoft (or Google, for that matter, since Edge and Chrome are connected at the hip) will keep Extended Stable secure are still cloudy.
Microsoft said last month that “important security patches and fixes will be delivered as needed independent of the selected release option,” which implied that security updates for Extended Stable will continue in their current no-schedule-here fashion. (Google has never patched Chrome on a set schedule, unlike, say, Microsoft and Internet Explorer or Mozilla and Firefox.)
But Google, which as the power behind Chromium should be the outfit in the know, said in March that, “security updates on Extended Stable will be released every two weeks to fix important issues, but those updates won’t contain new features or all security fixes that the 4 week option will receive (emphasis added).”
Because of the longer interval between releases for Edge’s Extended Stable, Microsoft has also altered its support policy for the browser. Prior to Extended Stable — and still applicable to all four-week-cycle copies of Edge — Microsoft provided what it called “Assisted Support” for the current version (call it N) and the two previous versions (N-1 and N-2). Here’s an example: The now-current version is v. 92, so Microsoft Assisted Support goes to v. 92, 91 and 90.
(Assisted Support is just what it sounds like: when a technical support rep helps a user, whether by phone, chat, email, or other communications method. Security updates for Chromium browsers, Edge and Chrome included, are issued only for the most-current version, never for prior versions.)
Extended Stable Edge, on the other hand, will be supported for N and N-1 only. When Edge 96 shows up, it and v. 94 will be eligible for Assisted Support.
More information about these support changes for Edge Extended Stable can be found here.