Microsoft is testing a built-in cryptocurrency wallet for the Edge browser
Microsoft appears to be testing a built-in cryptocurrency wallet for Edge, according to screenshots pulled from a beta build of the browser. The feature, which the screenshots say is strictly for internal testing, was unearthed by Twitter user @thebookisclosed, who has a history of digging up present-but-disabled features in everything from new Windows 11 builds to ancient Windows Vista betas.
This is only one of many money and shopping-related features that Microsoft has bolted onto Edge since it was reborn as a Chromium-based browser a few years ago. In late 2021, the company faced backlash after adding a “buy now, pay later” short-term financing feature to Edge. And as an Edge user, the first thing I do in a new Windows install is disable the endless coupon code, price comparison, and cash-back pop-ups generated by Shopping in Microsoft Edge (many settings automatically sync between Edge browsers when you sign in with a Microsoft account; the default search engine and all of these shopping add-ons need to be changed manually every time).
According to the screenshots, the crypto wallet is “embedded in Edge, making it easy to use without installing any extension,” and it can handle multiple types of cryptocurrency. It will also record transactions and the value of your individual currencies as they fluctuate. An “explore” tab offers news stories relevant to cryptocurrency, and an “assets” tab will let you stare lovingly at your NFTs. The wallet is “non-custodial” (also called “self-custodial”), meaning that you have sole ownership of and responsibility for the passwords and recovery keys that allow access to your funds. Microsoft won’t be able to let you back in if you lose your credentials.
Whether you find these kinds of add-ons useful, annoying, or predatory is a matter of perspective. Given the prevalence of crypto scams, there may be some value in having a “trustworthy” built-in option that doesn’t require the installation of dodgy third-party extensions. But the feature could also encourage casually interested users to begin exploring the world of cryptocurrency, which is, again, rife with scams.
It’s also yet another example of Microsoft building a not strictly browsing-related feature into its web browser. Many of these features can be disabled, and competing browsers like Chrome and Firefox all attempt to add value and earn money by building in access to new niche features and third-party services. But Microsoft’s moves can still have an outsize impact that deserves extra scrutiny—Edge is an installed-by-default, non-removable component of every Windows 10 and Windows 11 PC, and the operating system pushes you to switch to Edge with some regularity. And once in Edge, the browser pushes you to use Bing and other Microsoft services.
Microsoft may not ship the crypto wallet to Edge users—the company regularly tests features in Edge, Windows, and its other software that never end up making it into the general-release versions. We’ve contacted Microsoft for more information and will update if we receive a response.
Listing image by @thebookisclosed/Twitter