One of my bugbears with Microsoft Edge is that it doesn’t support playing embedded WebM content. That’s a problem, especially for users of Windows 10 S. Redstone 4 now adds full WebM support and Microsoft has released the ‘Web Media Extension for Microsoft Edge’ to backport full WebM support to older versions of Windows 10.
MSEs sound great in principle and sites like YouTube make use of them to good effect. However, most sites don’t bother to implement MSEs and instead embed WebM content using simple <video> tags. Because Microsoft Edge only supports WebM through MSEs, it is quite possible that video content won’t play in Edge.
Microsoft cited ‘performance’ as the reason for only supporting MSEs. It seemed unlikely that Microsoft would budge from this position but it looks like it has reconsidered due to pressure from customers. If Microsoft wants Windows 10 in S Mode to take off, where users are locked into a world where the only permitted browser is Edge, then to be frank, it is unacceptable that WebM content might not play.
The Web Media Extensions Package
In December, Microsoft announced the availability of the Web Media Extensions Package. According to a post on Microsoft’s Windows blog, the package is a new mechanism to provide formats on demand and add formats in the future. The package can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store here. The blog also states that the Web Media Extensions Package includes support for OGG Container Parser, Vorbis Decoder, and Theora Decoder. After installing the package on the Fall Creators Update, I can confirm that it enables support for embedded WebM. After you install the package, you will need to restart Edge.
Redstone 4 Support for Web Media Extensions
Once you’ve upgraded to Redstone 4, or the Spring Creators Update as it is otherwise known, you won’t need to install the Web Media Extensions Package to get support for OGG Container Parser, Vorbis Decoder, Theora Decoder, and embedded WebM. I assume that as the package is updated, it will add support for new codecs that are not currently baked into Redstone 4 and later versions of the operating system.
As I concluded in Google Chrome Versus Microsoft Edge in the Enterprise on Petri, despite my personal preference, it’s difficult to recommend Edge. And while it might not seem like a big deal, full support for WebM is an important step towards making sure people have a good experience with Edge. There are also other improvements to Edge coming in Redstone 4, including an improved Hub with a hamburger menu, larger panel, support for progressive web apps (PWAs), and the ability to mute audio from specific tabs.