Relax. It’s an Outlook Component
Microsoft published message center notification MC242585 (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 70699) on March 3 to bring the news that devices running the Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise (aka Office click to run) will get the Edge WebView2 runtime along with version 2101 (or later). I’m running version 2102 (Current channel -preview) and never noticed the arrival of WebView2. Those in the current channel not using the preview should see the change in April, unless your Office 365 tenant is hosted in a sovereign cloud or GCC (including High and DoD) where this action won’t happen.
Only Windows PCs are affected and only those which have Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise. Other devices can get the runtime by installing the Edge browser. Edge is a nice browser, even if its sleeping tabs sometimes cause disruption for SharePoint, and I have nearly broken my Chrome habit to use Edge exclusively.
Getting back to the point, installing the WebView2 runtime is like installing the Visual C++ 2008 redistributable, a much beloved inclusion in Windows updates. It’s a non-event.
No Cunning Plan
People became upset when they read the announcement and wondered if this was another cunning plan from Microsoft to force everyone to use Edge. It’s not. Edge isn’t installed and your choice of default browser remains intact. Instead, it’s using the Office distribution channel as a convenient way to make sure that the WebView2 component is available on PCs.
WebView2 is a critical part of OWA Powered Experiences (OPX). In a nutshell, Microsoft wants to be able to write software once and use it in multiple Outlook clients. New features like the Room Finder and Meeting Insights built for OWA use WebView2 as a rending engine, and the presence of the WebView2 runtime allows Outlook desktop to use the features without any changes (Figure 1). If WebView2 isn’t available, the features can’t work. Microsoft benefits by writing a feature once for multiple clients. Users benefit because clients behave the same way and features arrive faster.
Administrative Control for Edge WebView2
There’s no reason that I can think of not to allow Edge WebView2 runtime to be installed, but you can block it through the Customization section of the Apps Admin Center. Go to Device Configuration, then Modern Apps settings, and disable the automatic installation (Figure 2).
For more information, read Microsoft’s instructions.