Microsoft to Push Bing on Office 365 ProPlus Customers

Posted on January 22, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Office 365 with 32 Comments

Microsoft will automatically install Bing as the default search engine in Chrome for users of its Office 365 ProPlus offering. The goal is to enable the useful new Microsoft Search in Bing functionality, and anyone can uninstall it. But some customers are understandably outraged by the invasive strategy.

“Starting with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus, an extension for Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed that makes Bing the default search engine for the Google Chrome web browser,” a Microsoft support document explains. “By making Bing the default search engine, users in your organization with Google Chrome will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Search, including being able to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar. Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it.”

After this change—which will occur in both new and existing installs, starting in mid-February—users are free to switch back to their search engine of choice, most likely Google. The changes will be made for users in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Microsoft says, but may expand to other regions over time. Those running Firefox will not be impacted, but Microsoft plans to release a similar extension for that browser at a later date.

Predictably, some customers are not happy about this change, though it’s not clear from this Reddit thread how much of the outrage is coming from actual Office 365 ProPlus customers; this change does not impact any other versions of Office 365. “This should really be optional,” one of the calmer comments notes. “I think they severely underestimate the amount of helpdesk calls this will generate in an average org[anization].”

He’s right. That Microsoft Search in Bing is an excellent new feature for Office 365 is sort of beside the point: It seems like corporate customers should be able to access this functionality from any browsers without Microsoft silently changing the settings in their browser behind the scenes. Likewise, this is the sort of change that should be decided by IT or decision-makers at the organization that is deploying Office 365 ProPlus to its employees, and not by Microsoft. Especially for a third-party browser.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (34)

34 responses to “Microsoft to Push Bing on Office 365 ProPlus Customers”

  1. sherlockholmes

    Looks like Microsoft is desperate that at least somebody will use Bing. Sad.

  2. garethb

    Hypothetically, what would Microsofts opinion be, if Google in an update to Chrome modified the file associations for documents to open in Google Docs?

    I don't see the difference here. One corporate giant overriding user preferences to push people using a competitors product to theirs in an unrelated product.

  3. Winner

    Same old Microsoft.

  4. jckelly

    Hopefully, your anti-malware tool will be updated to deal with this. A program making changes to the operation of another application without explicit permission of the user is, by definition, malware.

  5. justme

    "...this Reddit thread..." Should there be a hyperlink with this?

    This seems quite intrusive. Surely even Microsoft can see this might generate some ill will with its customers?

  6. mrlinux11

    Is this correct ?

    "Starting with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus"

  7. bluvg

    Submit feedback. This is a dumb, ill-will fueling move. Nothing good comes of this for Microsoft. Opt-in, Microsoft, opt-in.

  8. anderb

    Chrome users should make sure they tick the 'Report abuse' box when uninstalling the extension.

  9. spacklewoof

    It's not Microsoft's job to change settings on a piece of software they don't own or control on a machine they don't own or control. That is a systems administrator job. Their pitiful search engine that still can't find technical articles inside of Microsoft as good as Google's can is one of many reasons why. The fact that it is not their setting to change is another. All of you so willing to give up control to Microsoft, astound me. You'd be pulling your hair out of a virus did this, but because Microsoft does it, it is somehow ok? No. This is a huge fail and another reason why the world should move away from Microsoft products altogether.

  10. hrlngrv

    Seems inevitable in hindsight, ever since MSFT ceased including local help files with Office.

    OTOH, only Chrome affected? Good thing I use portable Firefox (and risk the ire of IT staff). Anyway, I know enough about Firefox configuration that I'd be comfortable adding a script to my Startup folder to seek & destroy Bing wherever it tries to raise its ugly head in my Firefox configuration.

    Thank you, MSFT, for the opportunity to improve my scripting and configuration skills.

  11. Breaker119

    While I understand the outrage, as pointed out in the article this is to support Microsoft Search to surface company information in O365. Unless Bing is the search engine those results are left unseen as Microsoft can't change Google's search results screen (which is quite a mess now) to do so.

  12. kdjones74

    I have an Office 365 license through work and I use my license to install Office 365 Pro Plus on my personal PC at home. My PC isn't joined to the work domain, nor is it governed by InTune. From what I've read, I believe the only option for me is to disable it once it gets installed.

    Microsoft is so incredibly tone deaf about this stuff - it's just unbelievable.

  13. gregsedwards

    Oh, come on. Any IT organization worth its salt probably already has some GPO or arcane login script that it uses to force the users' default search engine. Microsoft provides an O365 deployment toolkit that lets admins decide exactly which features they want to allow at all. And if an organization actually cares enough to manage Chrome for their users, then they're probably controlling which extensions users are even allowed to install. Anyone who is impacted by this has an IT org that either doesn't care about enforcing a corporate standard or is too lazy to bother reading notices put out ahead of such a change. And besides, you can bet the first time some user notices they're on Bing and actually goes to Google in Chrome, it'll run some shifty back-end process to bypass or disable said Microsoft extension and set things right back to "normal."

    And for the record, Microsoft makes feature changes like this all the time in O365. Honestly, if we were talking about some new analytics tool being shoehorned into Excel or Outlook, then nobody would care. This is just a headline, because the user's default search engine option is considered "hallowed ground" for some reason. Now, having said that, I do think it's a little presumptuous for any software to override a previously customized setting. Perhaps the extension could/should notify the user ahead of the change and allow them to opt in. The benefit of Microsoft Search results is pretty great for organization that actually use SharePoint/OneDrive for content storage.

    When you consider how much "secret sauce" Google uses to push its G Suite and consumer app users to Chrome on desktop as well as mobile, this kind of thing seems like small potatoes to me. Seriously, there's just a bunch of stuff throughout Google Drive and Docs that only works properly in Chrome. Even spoofing the browser agent in Chromium Edge won't make it work...gotta use that sweet Chrome if you want the full experience, kids. And look at any Google app on iOS (Gmail, Waze, etc.) that purportedly lets you "choose" which browser you want to use to open links...guess which one isn't in there? Why, Edge, of course!

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      Has Microsoft ever forced-installed a Chrome extension that overrides the user's search engine before? This seems pretty unique.

      • sherlockholmes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Specially since they have adopted Chromium.

      • gregsedwards

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        To be clear, this extension is installed if and only if your IT admins don't care enough to prevent it. And there are myriad ways to do that as outlined here. And for semi-annual channel (my company's standard deployment channel), it's not happening until July 2020. I'd say that's plenty of notice. And if your admin does miss that deadline, Microsoft makes it easy to remove in bulk as outlined here.

        I can't say with any certainty whether Microsoft has ever forced-installed a Chrome extension, but I know they routinely change any number of system settings in Office and elsewhere. In this case, they're just using a vendor-approved process (installing a Chrome browser extension, which is supported by Google as a way to augment browser features and settings) that anyone could do. My company's IT admins just deployed a Chrome plug-in to our users that makes it easier for everyone to use Google Docs offline. Does that make Google guilty of trying to usurp users' God-given desktop productivity choices?

        • spullum

          In reply to gregsedwards:

          Pushing an update that changes a user's search engine without their consent is wrong, regardless of if Microsoft does it or if Google does it. Installing an extension is separate from changing a user setting.

          "if your IT admins don't care enough to prevent it" is making a lot of (IMHO) bad assumptions. Microsoft should not be engaging in behavior where they have to put out an after-the-fact workaround. Why do it at all? It potentially damages their reputation. They could have easily added a pop-up saying "try Microsoft search."

  14. thismarty

    Heaven forbid MS try making Bing better in order to get more people to use it.

    • Daekar

      In reply to thismarty:

      Bing is already great. Google is maintaining its lead largely by perceived momentum.

        • t-b.c

          In reply to paul-thurrott: Since a search engine doesn't move through spacetime it would be figurative momentum.
          Regardless of the reason for Google's dominance, I have to say that Microsoft should not be messing with software that is not their own. If they want to change the default search in Edge, fine. Let people know the experience will be better if they use all Microsoft products. Or make the app that changed the search engine in Chrome available to Enterprise customers should they want to deploy this integrated search feature in their organization.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to thismarty:

      Heaven forfend mere customers have any say over their search engine. Clearly MSFT knows better what all of us want than we do ourselves. W/O sarcasm: gotta wonder how this'll fly in the EU (France, Germany). Almost seems like MSFT is begging for a nice juicy fine and more bad press. Which leads me to wonder whether any of the fine Office people mentioned this to Nadella or any of the in-house lawyers.

  15. lvthunder

    Why do browser makers allow a third party add-in to modify the default search engine in the first place? The browser should at least pop up a dialog that asks if the user wants this or not.

  16. Stooks

    Oh look my comment was removed. Lol!

    I get some people might be irked but if you are paying for Office 365 this is a benefit to that service. If you do not like it...switch it back.

  17. lvthunder

    We use Office 365 Business Premium at work. Is that considered Office 365 Pro Plus?

  18. bpawlak

    How about Chrome changes the file associations for Office app files to Google doc equivalents. One app/vendor overstepping its boundaries to make a change in a location it has no business being. Tit for tat. Hey if for some reason people wanted their .docs to open in Word they can simply change them back.

Leave a Reply