Microsoft Steps Back From the Default Browser Cliff

Posted on December 3, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Edge, Windows 11 with 30 Comments

With bad news at Microsoft Edge arriving almost daily, many were ready to give up on Microsoft’s web browser. But here’s a bit of good news for a change: in the latest Windows 11 test build, Microsoft has added back a button that lets you choose a default web browser with a single click. It doesn’t fix all of the many problems that enthusiasts have with Edge, let alone Windows 11. But it’s a nice de-escalation in the stupidity that has made this past year so troubling.

I learned about this change from Raphael Rivera—I still haven’t installed the latest Dev channel build of Windows 11—who tweeted about the change. The screenshots in his tweet show a single “Make [Google Chrome] your default browser” option with a “Set default” button in the Windows 11 Settings app. (Apps > Default apps > Google Chrome, in this case.)

It appears that selecting this option doesn’t pull all file types and protocols away from Edge—in one shot, you can clearly see that PDFs are still set to open in Edge even though Chrome supports this too—and we should be clear that this doesn’t change Microsoft’s broader strategy of using Edge—and thus Bing and MSN—when users select links in Widgets, Start Search, and elsewhere. But still. It’s a positive change from the situation in the shipping version of Windows 11.

So I guess we’ll see what happens. But this is good news.

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Microsoft Steps Back From the Default Browser Cliff”

  1. Jester

    I assumed the article was going to be about Buy now, Pay Later.

  2. hopmedic

    How many times do they need to step up to the cliff before they realize they're just going to get pushed back from it?

  3. veermaharaj

    What kills me though is if you want to sell msn services, option bundle firefox with windows' oobe but have mozilla set up ffox to use all msn and windows services (not microsoft browser sync)

    Be the platform that everything else runs on, and give priority to the apps that push msoft's services as a bonus. That is a great way to sell services. Even MSN news. Actually show the news customers want to see. My google news feed is everything i look for news wise, tech and entertainment. Msoft just doesn't get it or doesn't care.

    Windows Media Player is still more powerful than Groove or Movies and TV. The new media player that looks like a mashup of Groove and Movies and TV is probably not going to be as good as WMP either, so the people who would rely on WMP, would have to install Winamp or MusicBee or MediaMonkey.

    Literally, all they need to do is maintain WMP12, but instead they bastardized Zune.

    I'm ranting again aren't i? Shit :S

  4. bbold

    I, for one, love using Edge, it's just so much easier for me and work well with all the Microsoft software and services. I agree that MS should back away from forcing people to use anything, but I simply love using Edge and Bing, and I might be in the minority but I'll continue to do so! Happy Monday, ya'll!

  5. justme

    A step in the right direction, to be sure - but as others have said, its a bit late (well, for the tech types, anyway. I suspect general users will hardly notice.)

    I think the more insidious part of this is forcing Start/Widget searches to go through Bing and MSN. If I click on a link, I expect my chosen default browser to open - not whatever Microsoft wants. If I search from Start, I want to search my local machine, not the internet, and sure as heck not Bing.

  6. dhr2018

    "many were ready to give up on Microsoft’s web browser"

    I already did after the BNPL fiasco (even though its not rolled out in my country). The large majority of my bookmarks were saved in Chrome anyway - which I use alongside Firefox on desktop W11, and alongside Safari on iOS/iPadOS (my Android is Chrome only)

  7. Jim Lewis

    Don't remember how I did it but I bumbled into the best of both worlds. I open PDFs on the web via Edge (use "Open in New Tab" rightclick option) so I don't have to download a PDF and hopefully stay safe in the Edge sandbox but I open PDFs on my computer via Kofax Power PDF by default, a much cheaper alternative to Acrobat that's very powerful. On Edge Shopping, I wish that they would offer it as an extension, as suggested by Paul & Co. on WW, and I'd go for a Shopping extension from Microsoft that had a price tracking, price drop notification service built in. As it is, I've installed CamelCamelCamel for the Amazon site, which is pretty amazing, giving me price history on individual items back to at least 2015, if an item has been on Amazon that long. The extension lets me set my own price drop notification limit, etc. I used to look down my nose at the Nintendo Switch but I've discovered Zelda BOTW about 4 years too late. The Nintendo Amiibo are a fun "cheat" in the freemium aspect of game playing - but Nintendo's let them go fallow and what used to be $13 a pop can now cost ~$100 (Zelda-Super Smash Bros.-drops the Twilight Bow about 1 in 50 uses). So if the prices ever drop, CamelCamelCamel will hopefully come to my rescue on the day the price dips below my willing-to-pay limit. There is also the very grey area of NFC tag cards via Tagmo (Android) or NFC Tools(iPhone) or the like to roll your own "amiibo-like" tags and one can buy the same type of NFC card already made on Amazon - somewhat amazing that Nintendo more or less allows Amazon to sell the stuff.

  8. proftheory

    Maybe Microsoft is looking to give Apple another boost, since few will switch to Linux, when they tire of the games Microsoft is playing.

  9. mi1984

    smart, the last thing anyone needs are users installing third party apps "from lord knows where" to change the default browser.

  10. dustinsherrill

    On my Android phone I preferred to not pick a default browser because I want it to ask me which browser to use each time I clicked on a link but that stopped working when I went to Android 12. In Android 12 if you don't make a default choice it opens all links with Chrome now. My only work around was to disable Chrome completely. With Chrome no longer an option it will ask me each time which of my other browsers I want to use. I use different browsers for different sites. For work I am always on Microsoft Edge, for gaming research I use Opera, for Shopping I like DuckDuckGo, etc.

    Chrome wanted to be the no choice default but now I don't use them at all. Probably not the results they were trying to accomplish with their change in version 12.

  11. ebraiter

    I still use Adobe Reader for PDFs. Had some incompatibility issues with Edge opening them as well as the built [?] in PDF viewer in Thunderbird.

    • dustinsherrill

      I switched to Foxit Reader after I was having compatibility issues and search (Ctrl+F) issues using Adobe Reader. Adobe wasn't finding the text I was looking for in large pdfs when I knew the text existed.

      • hrlngrv


        For me, nothing works as well as Foxit Reader when one needs to copy tabular data from PDFs to paste into Excel or other programs. Not even Acrobat Reader. Edge and other browsers don't even come close.

      • dftf

        Try SumatraPDF for an even-lighter PDF reader app. I'm not sure if it does browser plug-in functionality though, you probably have to download-then-open...

  12. rmac

    MS should never have gone down the browser route and should instead have focused on Windows to provide as needed browsing capability (and I mean screens, not the OS)

  13. pecosbob04

    Excuse my Windows ignorance: If I have say Adobe Acrobat™ installed on W10 / W11 will clicking on a PDF cause EDGE to open it by default? Assuming that is the case, I would also guess you can set a property of the PDF to cause it to open in Acrobat. If that is true and you make whatever change is required to associate the file type with Acrobat will EDGE still periodically try to regain the PDF open function? Just curious.

    • JerryH

      It is inconsistent for sure. For example in Windows 10, we have a corporate image. And you often see Windows proclaim that "an application caused an issue with a default setting" and all of a sudden Edge is now the default PDF viewer. Yet it doesn't happen on all devices all the time. Just sometimes. You certainly can set it to be Adobe though. And it will mostly respect that. Until it decides not to and then you have to set it again.

      • hrlngrv

        | Yet it doesn't happen on all devices all the time.

        Quantum computer configuration. There's only probability, no certainty.

  14. red.radar

    I think legal woke up and realized the hot water they were in if something wasn't addressed. I still expect the business goals and dark actions are still in play.

  15. bpawlak

    Too late. Many HAVE given up on Microsoft’s web browser. It is apparent the intentional push to see what they can get away is an ongoing business decision. Requiring public out cry to constantly steer you to do the right thing is not a game I want to participate in.

    • rob_segal

      I haven't seen any evidence many people have given up using Edge for this reason. Many people are not using Edge and many people are not using Windows 11 yet. It's still early in the rollout phase.

    • navarac

      I was about to write much the same. They react too little, too late. Microsoft will push forward with this crap, only pulling back when there is enough noise. Like Governments, they'll wait until other news is bad enough, or on a Friday in high-holiday time, and then slip the crap back in under the radar. Perhaps we need to alert the BBC with this stuff in future, although I don't trust those "luvvies" much anymore either.

  16. dftf

    Off-topic (though still related to Edge!), but as I can't create a Forum Post due to an error, I'll ask here: if anyone else has a "startup page" configured in Edge (Menu > Settings > "Start, home, and new tabs" > "Open these pages") are your pages loading when you open Edge, or are you getting the "New Tab Page" only?

    It seems broken to me on two separate Windows 10 21H2 devices I have recently...

    • Donte

      Yes, I have all of mine set to DuckDuck. I use an extension called "Customer New Tab" because with Edge you can't set the new Tab page for whatever reason.

      So, if I open Edge, click the Home button, or open a new tab they all go to DuckDuckGo.

      • Donte

        Edit - the extension is called "Custom New Tab" since we can't edit comments.

        • bbold

          Why can't we edit comments now? I just made a typo and now have to come across as a lowlife lol! Why, Thurrott, Why?! :) hehe

  17. brettscoast

    It's a small step back from the virtual cliff but a very minor one, at least there is hope.