by Bill Snyder

Why Microsoft Edge browser’s lack of add-ons is a deal breaker

Aug 27, 2015
Consumer Electronics

Microsoft's new Windows 10 OS may eventually prove to be a hit, but the lack of support for browser extensions in Edge is an Achilles heel that needs to be addressed sooner than later. Unfortunately, Microsoft won't say when Edge will get add-ons.

Microsoft’s new Edge browser, which is built into Windows 10, has a lot to offer, including the ability to annotate Web pages and work with Cortana — the Windows version of Apple’s Siri voice assistant. It also loads pages very quickly. However, there’s at least one thing missing, and it’s going to keep me from using the browser, at least for now.

Unlike every other major browser, Edge doesn’t support extensions, or small,browser add-on apps that perform a range of useful tasks, including some important security-related functions, such as storing passwords and blocking phishing sites.

Windows 10 edge

If you’ve been following Windows 10, you may have already heard about Edge’s lack of support for extensions. What is surprising, though, is that we’re nearly a month past Windows 10’s release date, and Microsoft is still not saying when it will make the Edge browser whole. I checked with the company this week and received the following response:

“Because part of the customer promise of Microsoft Edge is a personal experience, we are bringing support for extensions to Microsoft Edge in a future update. Developers who build extensions for other modern browsers using common Web technologies like JavaScript and HTML, will work with Microsoft Edge with little or no code changes.”

Translation: Edge extension support will be ready when it’s ready. Microsoft will eventually push a Windows 10 update to users that includes a fix, and the problem will likely become a nonissue.

Until then, there’s a host of things you cannot do with Edge. So for now, I’m mostly using Mozilla’s Firefox, in part because it supports tons of valuable extensions and add-ons.

Add-ons make Firefox a better browser for Windows 10 than Edge … for now

Firefox extensions I use frequently include, LastPass, a password manager that saves me the trouble of remembering dozens of passwords; Privacy Badger, which stops sites from tracking me; an ad blocker that reduces the numbers of ads I see; a Facebook button that lets me share pages with a click; and an extension that lets me chose when to load and when to block Adobe’s Flash. None of these add-ons currently work with Edge, so the new browser is more trouble than it is worth, at least for me.

If you use Norton Antivirus, you see this message after launching Edge: “Norton extensions protect you from phishing and other risky sites. Click Next to change your default browser to a supported browser so that you are protected while you surf the web.”

There’s another issue that may further delay Edge extension support. Microsoft’s statement above makes it sound like developers won’t have to work very hard to make their extensions play well with Edge after it gets add-on support, but that’s not quite true, according to Peter Eckersley, a developer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a privacy-focused consumer advocacy group.

The foundation developed the previously mentioned Privacy Badger browser extension. In theory, Eckersley and colleagues should be able to plug it into Edge without much fuss. “Unfortunately, we’ve rarely found matters to be so simple — the APIs tend to change a lot between versions of each browser, as well as being very different between them, and it’s a constant struggle to implement privacy or security functionality with them,” Eckersley said via email.

In other words, EFF expects to have to spend some time working with Edge, and it’s likely that other popular extensions could also be delayed.

The situation isn’t shocking, but it is unfortunate — and annoying. Every time Microsoft rolls out a new version of Windows, untold numbers of loose ends and glitches are introduced. I suspect Edge will turn out to be a more than worthy successor to Internet Explorer, and it may even give Chrome and Firefox a run for their money. Until this huge extension gap is plugged, however, it’s difficult to use Edge as an everyday browser.