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Microsoft peps up Edge browser speed with sleeping tabs, startup boost

It'll give computing priority to the tabs you're actively using while pausing others in the background.

Microsoft Edge icon logo
Illustration by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Microsoft Edge will get a speed boost with version 91 this week thanks to a feature called sleeping tabs that gives computing priority to the tabs you're actively using while pausing others in the background. The new web browser version also will start up faster, the software giant announced at its annual Build developer conference on Tuesday.

The changes will make Edge 91 "the best-performing browser on Windows 10," Microsoft boasted at the conference.

Browser performance is a key part of computing, especially on personal computers, where browsers are the most commonly used program.

But trying to improve performance isn't a guarantee of success. Google has added related features to Chrome. There, tab throttling chills background tab activity, and occlusion tracking figures out which tabs are visible to give them priority while Chrome is launching or running. Mozilla spent years speeding up Firefox with its Quantum project, but that hasn't turned around its dwindling share of usage.

Microsoft threw out its own browser engine and adopted Google's open-source Chromium instead, which has freed programmers to work on new priorities instead of trying to catch up with Google Chrome. Microsoft has contributed more than 5,300 changes to the Chromium project so far, the company said at Build, including some like memory usage improvements that Chrome has adopted.

Microsoft likes web apps

Microsoft is a major ally in Google's push to add power to web apps -- software that runs in browsers or on a browser foundation. Such apps today often are called progressive web apps, or PWAs. One big PWA fan is Twitter, but Microsoft is a powerful supporter.

Over the last year, Microsoft has made it possible for developers to offer PWAs through its Windows Store. That should makes web apps easier to discover, install and remove.

The company recommends that web developers package their software as a web app using the Microsoft-founded PWA Builder tool.

Web app developers can now tap into Windows' web software foundation called WebView2. Its foundation is Microsoft's new Edge browser.