Google Chrome might still be the favorite browser in terms of usage, but there’s no doubt that Microsoft Edge is slowly gaining a following, especially since the decision to embrace Chromium. The latest data gives Chrome a massive 63.63% versus 3.24% lead, but I guess hope springs eternal within Microsoft that Edge will make more of an impact over time. I stopped using Chrome some time ago and use Brave or Edge instead.
In any case, after a series of experiments, Microsoft announced the beta for sleeping tabs in the Edge browser in December. Everything seemed to go well and Microsoft enabled the feature in version 88 and later of the stable channel (Edge production). On the surface, the idea is excellent. Microsoft points to an average reduction in memory usage of 32% and an increase in battery life as benefits of the approach. Sleeping taps are greyed out until you select them (Figure 1) after which they reawaken.
More Authentication Cycles for SharePoint Online Sites
If, like me, you keep tabs open for SharePoint Online sites and other Microsoft 365 apps, sleeping tabs might become an annoyance. I typically have tabs open for three SharePoint Online sites plus Planner, the Microsoft 365 admin center, perhaps another admin center, and OWA. Since the introduction of sleeping tabs, I have been forced to reauthenticate access to sites more often than before. The process is something like this:
- Access sleeping tab.
- SharePoint looks for credentials.
- User enters credentials.
- SharePoint displays home site – not the site which was originally open.
The behavior seems to arise because the access token used for SharePoint Online is no longer valid. When a tab is “awake,” it can use a refresh token to acquire a new access token when the current access token expires. When a tab is asleep, its tokens might expire without having a chance to go through the renewal process. When that happens and the tab awakes, its access is invalid and reauthentication is necessary. Unfortunately, after securing new tokens through reauthentication, SharePoint Online returns the user to the home site instead of the site they had open. It’s very frustrating.
Other Microsoft 365 Sites Behave Differently
By comparison to SharePoint Online, Yammer protests about the lack of a token (Figure 2) but goes back to the same place once reauthentication happens. This only happens with Yammer’s new UI. It does not with the old UI.
OWA sleeps peacefully. When its tab awakes, a slight delay ensues while OWA figures out if new messages need to be fetched. To-Do doesn’t protest when awoken and Planner is content to return to its home page.
The Solution: Change Edge Settings
By default, tabs go asleep after two hours. The available options range from 5 minutes to 12 hours. Fortunately, the solution is simple. Edge allows you to create a list of sites that you do not want to sleep. Through the system section of Edge settings (edge://settings/system). In Figure 3, you can see that I’ve entered details of the sites I want to stay away, including any SharePoint Online site in my tenant.
The fix works and the sites on my list have returned to a normal authentication cycle. All is well with the world and I can get back to work.
The Office 365 for IT Pros eBook doesn’t cover this kind of thing, maybe because Edge has such a low usage percentage. But some might find this interesting, so we publish here.