The Most Exciting Part of Microsoft Edge is WebView2

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Finally there’s a consistent way to host the Chromium engine in your Windows applications

In the ancient days of the 1990s, when the internet was a new and trendy invention, programmers wondered if it might be a good vehicle for applications. So we tried to take the desktop technology of the time and wedge that into our web browsers. We used tools like ActiveX plugins and Java applets. We used embarrassingly bad, proprietary plugins like Office Web Components and FrontPage Extensions. Most sensible programmers stayed far away.

Eventually people realized these strategies were never going to work at the scale of the web and for the incredible variety of web-connected computers and devices. There was too much install, too many security risks, too little support across different platforms. Instead, it turned out that the right model was the reverse. Instead of putting a native app into a browser, Trojan horse style, we needed to sneak web apps into our desktop applications. Today, this type of approach is called a hybrid application and it runs the gamut from a simple web page shown alongside native content to a complete JavaScript app in Electron.

Despite the popularity of hybrid applications, modern solutions for rolling your own are a bit of a patchwork. If you don’t want to use a full framework like Electron, you need to rely on a system control like WebBrowser (the original, IE-powered window for hosting web content) or the newer WebView (based on Edge, but limited to Windows 10). In the best case scenario, you’re managing a fallback to IE on older computers, and dealing the creaky Internet Explorer browser long past its expiration date. As a side effect, you never know what level of standards compliance you’ll get, which makes it impossible to take advantage of the most modern JavaScript and CSS features.

Microsoft has been promising a fix for a while. They demonstrated a successor to WebView for C++ applications at last year’s Build conference. Now this successor,WebView2, is finally arriving and finally supports all types of Windows applications.

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