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When Microsoft launched Windows 10 in 2015, it also began a transition from Internet Explorer to a web browser called Edge, which was built from the ground up to be more secure, snappier, and easier on the eyes. However, Edge launched without add-ons, so there were no third-party tools for things like password managers, nighttime modes or specific websites like Reddit.

The Edge browser is also exclusive to Windows 10, which itself has faced controversy because you cannot fully disable all the logging that the operating system wants to send to Microsoft.

SEE: Google aims to combat websites that hijack your browser's back button

As a result, although Edge now has a decent library of add-ons, it's struggled to gain market share. Microsoft has decided to cut its losses and base future versions of the browser on Chromium, which is the open-source engine that Google uses to build its Chrome browser for Windows, MacOS and Android. (Apple requires browsers on iOS to base themselves on Safari, for security reasons.)

And now, to spur adoption and interest, Microsoft has created an Insider program for users to optionally beta test the new Chromium-based Edge before it's released to the general public. The company already has Insider programs for Windows 10 and Office 365, so one for an in-house web browser seems like a natural fit.

To sign up for eligibility in this program, just head over to the new Microsoft Edge Insider portal here, give them your name and email address, and click on the Count Me In button right below.

In a recent blog post about moving to Chromium, corporate VP and Microsoft veteran Joe Belfiore said that moving to Google's browser engine will let the new Edge run on all supported versions of Windows -- which would include Windows 7 and 8 -- plus MacOS. He also pointed out that Microsoft already has experience with Chromium programming code, as it forms the basis of the Android version of Edge that the company launched in spring 2017.

Basing a browser on Chromium would also grant Microsoft access to Google's rapid release schedule, where new versions of Chrome are delivered roughly every ten weeks. In this environment, users can access beta versions of Chrome, and an alpha version known as "Canary," so there's already a system that Microsoft can adapt into an Insider testing framework.

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Since Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft's CEO in 2014, the company has made a number of forays into the open-source world, where an app's programming code is publicly available for anyone to inspect -- a major shift from the closed and proprietary model that the company built its empire on.

To hear Microsoft tell it, moving to Chromium is part of an earnest effort to embrace open standards. We'll see if the "extend and extinguish" parts of its reported three-prong strategy from the past will resurface for a new generation of users.

Takeaways

  • Microsoft has announced an Insider beta testing program for a new version of its Edge web browser that will use roughly the same programming code as Google Chrome.
  • You can sign up to be eligible on Microsoft's new Edge Insider website.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.