Mozilla Bypasses Default Apps Interface in Windows 11

Posted on September 13, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Mozilla Firefox, Web browsers, Windows 11 with 26 Comments

Mozilla said this week that it has reverse-engineered the horrible new Default Apps interface in Windows 11, allowing its users to more easily switch the default browser away from Microsoft Edge.

“People should have the ability to simply and easily set defaults, but they don’t,” a Mozilla spokesperson said. “All operating systems should offer official developer support for default status so people can easily set their apps as default. Since that hasn’t happened on Windows 10 and 11, Firefox relies on other aspects of the Windows environment to give people an experience similar to what Windows provides to Edge when users choose Firefox to be their default browser.”

I was among the first to note that Windows 11 had dramatically changed how configuring default apps works back in early August. And since then, third-party tools like EdgeDeflector have emerged to make this process simpler.

But Mozilla is the first company impacted by the horrible new Windows 11 behavior to take this matter into its own hands. And I’m curious now whether it can share the method with other browser makers. And if Microsoft will work to prevent Mozilla’s workaround.

That said, Mozilla has been complaining about how the Default Apps interface works since the release of Windows 10 in July 2015.

“These changes are unsettling because there are millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored, and because of the increased complexity put into everyone’s way if and when they choose to make a choice different than what Microsoft prefers,” Mozilla CEO Chris Beard wrote at the time. “We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious, and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.”

Well, flash forward 6 years and only one thing has changed: Microsoft has made it even harder for users to configure Windows 10 to respect their default app choices. And so Mozilla, correctly, I think, has taken action.

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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Mozilla Bypasses Default Apps Interface in Windows 11”

  1. hrlngrv

    Has MSFT ever made a public statement about how their byzantine approach to maintaining Edge's tie to various browser functions makes Windows more secure, more pleasant to use, or (darn it!) just better in characteristic MSFT babble-speak?

    • LT1 Z51

      They argue (and I think wrongly) that lots of "embedded" interfaces require the Edge (and before IE) interface to guarantee that it renders appropriately. Which I think is weak sauce. But that's the argument.

      • anoldamigauser

        It is hard to believe that any "embedded" interfaces require Edge, per se, since it is basically Chromium. The only interface that requires IE is ActiveX and that should be taken out back and put out of our misery.

        • lvthunder

          That's not true. At work we use a Deltek App named Ajera that uses Microsoft Click to Run browser technology that can only be enabled in Edge.

          • ernie

            So, your company can retain the default setting, making Edge the default, and use policy settings to prevent unauthorized users from making configuration changes. Should your company's requirements prevent all other users from making that choice for themselves?

            I do not see any post that says Edge should not be the default. I only see posts saying that when a user makes a choice in settings, that choice must be honored (assuming the user in question has the required privileges).

            For example, I am using my home desktop system. On this system, I should be able to decide which web browser is my system wide default, and have the OS honor my choice. I like Edge. I also like Firefox. If MSFT continues on this path, I may decide to switch to my alternate OS choice (KDE Neon GNU/Linux) and make Firefox the default there, and do away with Windows al together. I did not like MSFT's heavy handed behavior back in the day, and I do not like seeing it returning today.



            • lvthunder

              I was referring to this, "It is hard to believe that any "embedded" interfaces require Edge, per se, since it is basically Chromium." when I wrote what I wrote. Of course, you should be able to set the default browser. I have mine set to Firefox and only use Edge to do my timesheet.

    • bluvg

      Well, one area where it would be nice is in Office. The built-in Office renderer is a mess and still allows ActiveX (and unsurprisingly the source of a recent serious vulnerability).

    • ikjadoon

      They haven’t and won’t ever.

      It’s like Microsoft bluntly explaining why Windows 10X imploded or why Windows 10’s feature updates were a massive burden.

      They live in their cozy mental states that rationalize every major failure by the company.

      We’ll get a monthly cumulative update in 2022, a toxic positivity forum post later this year that admits no anti-competitive faults, and / or Panos Panay will write a “it was never my fault” autobiography in 2023 after he gets pushed out.

    • winner

      Here, I can write that statement for you:

      "At Microsoft, we respect our customers and the added revenue that they can provide by using our Edge Browser. We've made exciting changes in Windows 11 that will improve user uptake of Edge browsing, putting our Edge Browser on a higher competitive level to ensure our stockholders' superior returns."

  2. proftheory

    Edge the new IE4,5,6

  3. sherlockholmes

    And still some on this site are thinking Windows 11 will be a huge hit for Microsoft.

    • taswinfan

      For the 85% of users who don't care nor do they know how to change their default will be fine and that is what MS is counting on. For those who care...well they will either change it becuase they know how to, or they will change Operating systems... Which isn't likely. In my case I have not had any issues changing defaults ever...not even in widnows 11. Of course... I get paid to help people at work change their default browser and use a pdf reader....

  4. brettscoast

    Good proactive move here by Mozilla Firefox. This is really appalling behaviour by Microsoft forcing this abomination on users on Windows 11. As Windows 11 is near complete is it too late for Microsoft to reverse this awful default apps behaviour?

  5. shmuelie

    It's a registry setting. Always has been, that's how they all do it

  6. ponsaelius

    Hasn't Microsoft got into trouble before by making it impossible to choose an alternative browser? Making things difficult shouldn't be the default for any supplier. However, it is. The reason is always money. The only way to fight back is to make it more expensive for the manufacturer. Last time the EU stepped in. It could happen again.

  7. IanYates82

    I remember a version of Opera I installed that took over being my default browser without asking... It used UI automation to move the mouse, open settings, and click the default browser. It must've only lasted for a version of two since I never saw it do it again on subsequent installations. Creepy to observe though

  8. Username

    MS just reacting to realisation that this won’t be the year of Linux so can do what they like.

  9. poppapete

    I loaded Winzip and Acrobat DC onto my W11 and both were just as difficult to make default apps as was Chrome. Not a good look MS.

  10. anderb

    Other sites are reporting that Mozilla have worked out how to do this for Windows 10, not Windows 11. Is that correct?

  11. jim.mcintosh

    BFD, Netscrape has not been allowed on any of my computers since about 1990.

  12. SaintKaze

    Jumped backed onto Firefox and thanks to Mozilla now using VPN. Also using Neeva search. I just wished Neeva would donate to the Mozilla foundation.

  13. epguy40

    we'll see if Google Chrome will follow Mozilla's lead on this