Microsoft has stated that it will change the way it distributes Windows 11 preview releases to Insiders in the Dev or Beta Channels. Both channels will be designated the “active development branch” in the future, but for distinct types of feature testing.
Microsoft is also emphasizing the Dev Channel’s role as a testing ground for new features. This is a branch that isn’t bound to a single release, but rather a place where Microsoft can test new features and concepts, some of which will never make it into a new version of Windows.
Additionally, because not everything in the builds will be what Microsoft is focused on testing, there will be features and updates that make their way to the Dev Channel that are undocumented by Microsoft. Many of the features that are tested will have several versions and A/B testing groups, which means that the same function may be different depending on the Insider, or even disabled entirely for some.
This is now an “active development branch” as well, according to Microsoft, although it will be focused on a more limited set of features that will be included in the next edition of Windows. This implies the Beta Channel won’t have any experimental features and will instead be a more realistic picture of what the company plans to ship.
Finally, Microsoft has stated that some new features and experiences would be supplied via Feature, Web, and Online Service experience packs, implying that not everything will be given via a full new build installation. Microsoft has done this before, but it will now be a key method of evaluating new features in the future. New builds will continue to offer the major platform and under-the-hood enhancements.
Because Microsoft will be able to test specific features outside of major build upgrades, new features may appear first on the Beta Channel. Nothing will change for people on the Release Preview Channel, which means this will continue to be the area where the final build of the next version of Windows is tested two weeks before it is released to the general public.
Overall, the Insider Program modifications are intended to help Microsoft better collect and respond to input. Having a channel devoted to feature experimentation is beneficial because it allows the organization to be more upfront about ideas and involve Insiders in the development process.