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Windows 11 will let you test experimental features that may never be released

The Windows 11 logo seen through a digital magnifying glass
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Windows Insider program has long been a place for technology enthusiasts to get an early look at features coming to the operating system, but it’s about to get a bit more experimental with Windows 11 in 2022.

Windows Insider program lead Amanda Langowski announced (opens in new tab) that the Microsoft is “evolving the way we develop and release to Insiders with more emphasis on trying out different concepts with our features and services.”

To that end, the Dev Channel is to be refocused as a “place to incubate new ideas” generally with a long lead-in time. “In some cases, these concepts will never ship, but by experimenting more, we can better refine experiences, and deliver solutions in Windows that truly empower our customers to achieve more,” Langowski explained.

“It is important to remember that the builds we release to the Dev Channel should not be seen as matched to any specific release of Windows and the features included may change over time, be removed, or replaced in Insider builds or may never be released beyond Windows Insiders to general customers,” she emphasized.

Elsewhere, the Beta Channel will be reserved for “previewing experiences that are closer to what we will ship to our general customers.” That means that sometimes features will confusingly appear in the Beta Channel first, even though they’re almost ready for show time. 

The Release Preview Channel, meanwhile, will still be intended to highlight features that are due an imminent release.

“Now’s a good time to start thinking about what Channel is best for you,” Langowski continued.  “We will soon be giving Insiders a window in which they will be able to switch from the Dev Channel to the Beta Channel. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks.”

While most Windows 11 users will be content to enjoy the stable public releases rolled out to users after beta testers have squashed the majority of bugs, this will certainly appeal to those who want to have a say in the future of Windows. And that number is growing, according to Langowski, who said that more people are running Windows 11 preview builds than ever did for Windows 10. 

“We are energized by all the feedback we’re seeing from Insiders and excited to use those insights to make Windows 11 even better for our customers,” she explained. 

The operating system is due a sizable improvement this month, with Android app support as well as updates to the taskbar, Notepad and Media Player all pencilled in for February

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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.