Why WebView2 is being quietly installed into Windows

A new Windows component WebView2 is being quietly installed on Windows computers, mostly for Microsoft Office.  Here’s what WebView2 is and that the acronym WVRT means.

Most people won’t have noticed a new ‘optional’ feature added to their Windows 10 in the last week or so. Go to Settings | Apps and Features then search for ‘webview’. You may well find ‘Microsoft Edge WebView2 Runtime has been installed recently.

If it’s not there, the Runtime module may well appear in future.  At worst, it’ll be installed when an app needs it.

What is WebView2?

WebView2 is the latest in a long series of programming libraries from Microsoft.  These libraries are common features and tools which programs can use. Rather than each programmer ‘reinventing the wheel’ for basic tasks, they call on a library to do the job.

If you’ve used Windows for years, you may remember installing VB Runtime libraries so that some programs could work.  Other libraries are installed with Windows.

WebView2 is a similar thing but it’s based around Microsoft’s Edge browser.  Modern apps can call Edge components to, for example, make user interfaces within programs.  The program still looks normal, but it can include bits of HTML, CSS and Javascript.

Instead of insisting people install Microsoft Edge browser, WebView2 Runtime is a library of Edge functions that work without the full browser installation.

Ideally, people will use a program and never realize they are working with parts of Edge.  Just in the same way that they don’t know if a VB or C# Runtime module is being used.

WBRT

WBRT is the acronym for WebView2 RunTime

Microsoft Outlook is likely one of the first to make use of WebView2 to expand and standardize features.  It means Microsoft developers can write a single piece of code that works in both desktop programs and the browser based equivalent. The common example is Outlook which need the same features created at least twice – once in Outlook for Windows and again in Outlook for web browser (aka OWA).

WBRT is being installed on Windows machines in preparation for it’s use in Microsoft Office as well as third-party apps.

An app install will check for WebView2 Runtime on the computer, if it’s not there or not the right version, WBRT will be installed.  Microsoft is hoping to prevent those delays by putting WBRT on computers now, before it’s needed.

Is WebView2 Runtime OK on my machine?

Leave WebView2 Runtime installed on a computer – it’s not doing anything.  It’s like a cooking utensil in a kitchen drawer, sitting there harmless until grabbed for a task.

The safety and stability of WebView2 when it’s used in Office and other apps … that’s the unanswered question.  Only proverbial time will tell.

Here’s a Microsoft video about WebView2 and the Runtime module. Mostly intended for developers but simple enough for us mere humans to follow <g>.