Microsoft just can’t stop itself from adding new “browser features” to Edge. Once a streamlined tool for browsing the web, Edge now even includes built-in loans. The latest feature is a sidebar designed to push Microsoft’s online services, including Bejeweled-style Match 3 games.
The sidebar is part of an Edge version 104 update released on August 19, 2022. I personally saw the sidebar enabled by default when I opened my Edge browser this morning. Experiences here at How-To Geek are mixed so far: Some of us see the sidebar enabled by default, while others don’t see it enabled by default.
Edge’s new sidebar has six different features: Search, Discover, Tools, Games, Microsoft Office, and Outlook. These are all designed to push you to Microsoft’s online services: The Search, Discover, and Tools features use Bing, Games takes you to MSN’s web-based games, Microsoft Office uses the Office Web Apps, and Outlook uses Outlook.com.
Games is perhaps the most unfortunate shortcut of all—not only is Microsoft placing a link to time-wasting casual games on everyone’s screens, but the games are web-based games. Yes, your PC might have the Microsoft Solitaire Collection installed already, but Edge would prefer you play it on MSN.com. (We’re not knocking casual games here, play them if you want—but do you really need a “Games” icon sitting on-screen next to every web page you view all day long?)
That’s it, by the way—you can’t add anything else to the sidebar on the right side of your browser window. There’s a “+” button that implies it might let you add additional tools, but it just lets you disable icons (at least you can disable the Games icon.)
Thankfully the sidebar is easy to disable. You can press Ctrl+Shift+/ , click the “Hide Sidebar” button at the bottom of the sidebar, or head to Settings > Appearance and toggle “Show Sidebar” off. (If you want to see the sidebar and it isn’t enabled in your browser automatically yet, you can press Ctrl+Shift+/ or use the option in Settings.)
The sidebar feels like yet another feature created to improve Microsoft’s metrics, not to help the people using Microsoft’s browser. I’m sure the team in charge of MSN Games is thrilled at the prime real estate it’s getting and how that will improve its user numbers. But ultimately, this is just more clutter in Edge that will push people away from Microsoft’s browser.
I still use Edge, and it’s getting so bad that it’s becoming entertaining. I already see an annoying icon whenever I mouse over an image on any web page, Edge wants to give me a loan, and now Microsoft wants me to play some Bejeweled clones.
What ridiculous feature will be part of Edge when I open Microsoft’s browser next month? I’m looking forward to finding out.