Microsoft has announced that it will allow third-party developers to create extensions for the Sidebar in its Edge web browser. The move is expected to enhance the browser's functionality and offer users a more personalized browsing experience.
New Opportunities for Developers
The Edge sidebar was introduced to Windows desktops in May 2023, and it allows users to access various tools and apps within the same browser tab.
It provides tools with generative AI functions such as Bing Chat and Bing Compose, which are both based on GPT-4 from OpenAi and Bing Image Creator, which uses OpenAi´s DALL-E image generation tool. Bing sidebar also offers web-based Bing tools like Bing Calculator, Bing Unit Converter, Bing Translator, a dictionary, a world clock with alarm, timer, and stopwatch, web page searching, Office apps, games, will now be open to third-party developers. Microsoft's decision to allow developers to create their own sidebar extensions will make Edge much more versatile.
The company has introduced three new extension functions to facilitate this development. These include setting a default sidebar to display consistent content across all opened tabs, enabling the sidebar on specific sites, and switching to a different sidebar when users navigate to a different tab.
Microsoft says they believe that the new feature will enable developers to offer a seamless and consistent browsing experience across sessions. Developers will be able to customize the sidebar experience based on users' preferred websites.
Progressive Web Apps and Sidebar Extensions
In addition to the new extension functions, Microsoft has also announced that developers of progressive web apps (PWAs) can adapt their apps to run alongside browser tabs for a side-by-side co-browsing experience. The company plans to help users discover and install sidebar apps as they browse the web, thereby increasing the discoverability of these apps.
Microsoft has invited developers to offer feedback on the new Edge Sidebar extension features via the Edge Extensions GitHub forum. As the company continues to make improvements to the sidebar extensibility models, it is eager to hear from developers about their experiences and suggestions for future enhancements.
Microsoft Edge Sidebar Becomes Key Place for New Features
Opening the Edge sidebar to third-party developers is part of a series of innovations Microsoft has introduced to its Edge browser and Bing search engine over the past few months.
In February 2023, Microsoft announced the integration of OpenAI's GPT-4 into Bing Chat, its AI search chatbot. This integration has significantly expanded the functionality of Bing Chat, allowing for more engaging and relevant responses.
In April 2023, Microsoft introduced the Bing Image Creator to the Edge sidebar, alongside Bing Chat. This tool allows users to generate AI art based on their input, with the option to choose between “precise” and “balanced” modes for more creative or more strictly input-following results.
Microsoft also launched the Edge Workspaces feature in April 2023. This feature allows users to create custom browser windows for different tasks or projects, enhancing productivity and organization.
Major Updates to Bing Chat and the Introduction of Edge for Business
In May 2023, Microsoft rolled out significant updates to Bing Chat, including multimodal capabilities, history, and Edge actions. Bing Chat also gained mobile-desktop workflow and contextual chat for Edge, allowing users to start a Bing Chat conversation on their PC and resume it on their mobile device, or vice versa.
During the same month, Microsoft announced the launch of Edge for Business at the Build 2023 conference. Edge for Business is a mode that allows companies and organizations to customize and manage their browser settings according to their needs and preferences. It offers a fast, secure browsing experience for business users, with multi-platform support and more than 80 languages available.
As Microsoft continues to innovate, users can expect to see additional features in the future. The company has already promised more updates and enhancements for Bing Chat, and with the introduction of third-party extensions for the Edge sidebar, the possibilities for future developments are vast. As the company continues to make improvements to the sidebar extensibility models, it is eager to hear from developers about their experiences and suggestions for future enhancements.