Bad news for anyone who hoped that Microsoft would do the right thing when it comes to respecting user choice in Windows 11. It will not.
As I wrote on Friday, Microsoft released a new Windows 11 build to Windows Insiders in the Dev channel last week that blocks workarounds to the bizarre default web browser functionality in this OS.
This requires a bit of backstory.
As originally designed, Windows 11 does not allow rival web browsers to set themselves as the default with a single click as with previous Windows releases. Instead, the user must manually undertake incredibly ponderous steps to make a non-Edge browser the default in Windows 11, and even then, certain actions, like clicking a news story in Widgets or searching the web from the taskbar/Start, will still launch Microsoft Edge. (And access back-end Microsoft services like Bing and MSN.)
To date, users have been able to work around this anticompetitive behavior by using utilities like EdgeDeflector. And browser makers like Mozilla and Brave have implemented workarounds in their own products to make Windows 11 respect the user’s default browser choice.
But the new build blocks these workarounds, leading to serious questions about Microsoft’s ethics and intentions. And now we’ve learned, explicitly, that this behavior is purposeful.
“Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers,” a Microsoft statement notes. “At the same time, Windows also offers certain end-to-end customer experiences in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, the search experience from the taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected. When we become aware of improper redirection, we issue a fix.”
That’s too bad, as it places Microsoft in the same user-hostile and anticompetitive category as Big Tech competitors like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. This behavior needs to be examined by antitrust regulators in the United States, EU, and elsewhere. And it is our right and responsibility as Microsoft customers to complain about this behavior and seek to have it changed immediately and before legal action is required.