Microsoft outlines what’s next for the Windows Insider Program for 2022
Microsoft is always continuing to evolve how it services Windows, and that means that the Windows Insider Program continues to change. Today, the company’s Windows Insider Program chief, Amanda Langowski, penned a blog post outlining what to expect from the program this year.
It seems like the biggest thing that’s changing is the Windows Insider Program logo, which is currently the old Ninja Cat design. Now it’s going to be something that’s a bit more grown-up, as you can see from the image above. The three avatars are meant to represent the three channels in the program.
The Windows Insider Program channels remain the same
As far as those channels go, it’s pretty much more of the same. The Dev channel still isn’t tied to any particular feature update. It’s reserved for testing out new features, and the blog post reiterated that those features may or may not ship in the next feature update. They’ll ship when they’re ready, or they won’t ship at all.
However, even though the user will be explicitly offering up their system stability in favor of trying out the bleeding edge of Windows development, they still might not get it. Microsoft was clear that it’s going to continue its A/B testing plan, where it only offers new features to some Insiders.
It also gets a bit weirder. Microsoft says that while it’s going to keep documenting features in its regular blog posts, it’s not going to document variations of features. Also, features that are disabled by default won’t be documented.
The Beta and Release Preview channels aren’t changing either. The Beta channel is where you’ll first see previews of actual feature updates, or as Microsoft says, it’s “closer to what we will ship to our general customers”. The firm also noted that since Dev and Beta are developed separately, there may be instances when the Beta channel gets new features first. An example of this already happening would be Android app support on Windows 11. Finally, the Release Preview channel is still for testing whatever is coming to non-Insiders in the immediate future.
The key thing that every Insider should know is that Dev is experimental. There’s no promise that features will ship, and if you decide that it’s too unstable for you at some point, you might need to do a clean installation of Windows to unenroll.
More experience packs are coming
Microsoft has been talking about Windows Feature Experience Packs for a while, and back in October, it introduced Online Service Experience Packs. There’s another one being talked about here, which is Web Experience Packs.
The broader point, however, is that these are ways of delivering features to Windows without having to push out feature updates. Windows Feature Experience Packs can push updates to different areas in Windows, while an Online Service Experience Pack has a narrower scope. Those are both delivered via Windows Update, but Web Experience Packs are actually going to come through the Microsoft Store. The example Microsoft gave is that a Web Experience Pack might be used to update the Widgets experience.
Of course, builds are still going to come as they always have, especially in the Dev channel. Dev is perpetually in a state of prerelease, so most builds come from the rs_prerelease branch. When a new update comes to Beta, that might be a major build at first, but then it could be serviced with cumulative updates until it’s released, adding features via the various kinds of experience packs. These builds come from a _release branch, preceded by the codename, so it would be ni_release for the Nickel update.
Once things are finalized, whether it’s for a feature update, a cumulative update, or an experience pack, those things head to the Release Preview channel before heading out to non-Insiders.
Ultimately, if you’re a Windows Insider, things aren’t changing for you. The Dev, Beta, and Release Preview channels are for the same things that they always have been. You’ll see a new icon for the Windows Insider program in Settings, and that’s about it.