Microsoft’s Windows 11 launch hasn’t been smooth sailing to say the least. There had already been much confusion over the TPM 2.0 and CPU requirements for the upcoming OS. Now, a new report highlights the lengths Microsoft is apparently going to so that users will keep using the default Microsoft Edge browser.
According to The Verge, Microsoft has changed the way users set their default apps. In the current Windows 10, you get prompted when you install a new browser and open a link for the first time. For example, you may have just installed Google Chrome in the background, and had set up your email in the Mail app at the same time. If you click on a link in the Mail app, you might then see this:
This remains the same for Windows 11, however it’s also now the only way to change your default browser. If you happen to miss the ‘Always use this app’ option, the default browser will never change from here on out. It can be easy to skip pass ticking this option, and you’ll never see this prompt again.
While Windows 10 users would get prompted by their new browser to head over to the Settings app and change their default browser, Microsoft changed the way default apps work in Windows 11, so you’ll have to change each link and file type’s default program one by one. For Google Chrome users, this means you’ll have to change the default program for the following file and link types: HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS.
It’s safe to say that compared to the single toggle in Windows 10, having to do this in Windows 11 would be an extremely long and unnecessary task. So far, it appears as though that only Mozilla Firefox was able to set itself as the default browser without sending the user to the Settings app shown above. Other competing internet browsers such as Chrome, Opera, Brave and Vivaldi all needed the user to go through the long process of changing the default app.
This move by Microsoft hasn’t gone down well with their rivals. Hiroshi Lockheimer, head of Android, Chrome and Chrome OS at Google, was among the most notable to criticise Windows 11’s way of handling default browsers. He highlighted the irony of Microsoft claiming that Windows has the most choices while simultaneously locking out their rivals.
Other rivals also pointed out their concerns about this move by Microsoft. A Vivaldi spokesperson told The Verge that Microsoft already had a history of doing these things, and that it’s only getting harder to change defaults with every new version of Windows. Meanwhile, Firefox’s senior vice president Selena Deckelmann also didn’t mince words, saying that these new changes are confusing and only makes it harder for users to swap to a different browser.
“We have been increasingly worried about the trend on Windows. Since Windows 10, users have had to take additional and unnecessary steps to set and retain their default browser settings. These barriers are confusing at best and seem designed to undermine a user’s choice for a non-Microsoft browser,” – Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president of Firefox
Deckelmann is likely referring to how using the search bar in Windows 10 doesn’t lead you to your default browser choice. Instead, the Windows 10 search bar will always open up Microsoft Edge, and search your search terms into Microsoft Bing rather than Google Search. This also gets worse in Windows 11, as the new widget tools in the upcoming OS also ignores your default browser, making users use Edge instead.
Microsoft, for their part, seems to claim that these changes are for the good of the user. They say that the changes to the way default apps work is a way for Windows users to have more control over their apps. That being said, they did tell The Verge that as they get more feedback from users, they will tweak things to improve the Windows 11 experience if necessary.
Windows 11 is due to come out by the end of the year, and right now beta builds are available for those in the Windows Insiders program. Hopefully though Microsoft decides to rollback these changes, as it seems to only confuse users right now rather than give them control.
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