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Microsoft clarifies why it forces links to open in Edge browser

Microsoft Edge Update Dev New
Microsoft Edge Update Dev New (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A recent change to Windows 11 Insider builds blocks apps like EdgeDeflector from redirecting certain types of links.
  • EdgeDeflector can force links from the Windows shell, such as the News widget, to open in your browser of choice.
  • Microsoft clarified in a recent statement that some links are "not designed to be redirected" and has prevented this from being possible.

A recent statement from Microsoft clarifies why the company forces links from some parts of Windows to open in Microsoft Edge. In Windows, certain elements, such as the News widget, always open links in Microsoft Edge, even if you've set another browser as your default. EdgeDeflector intercepts those links, allowing you to always use your default browser. Microsoft blocked EdgeDeflector and similar applications from intercepting links in a recent Insider build of Windows 11.

We covered the blocking of EdgeDeflector's core functionality last week, but a statement from Microsoft explains the companies reasoning for its action.

"Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers," said a Microsoft spokesperson to The Verge. "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."

The statement from Microsoft indicates that apps like EdgeDeflector will not be able to work in the future. Microsoft refers to its change as a "fix," which suggests that it views the redirection of edge:// protocol links as a problem.

EdgeDeflector has 500,000 users, according to its developer, but another app attempting to redirect edge:// protocol links may have driven Microsoft to block the behavior. Mozilla planned to implement similar functionality in its browser, which has 200 million users.

"People deserve choice. They should have the ability to simply and easily set defaults and their choice of default browser should be respected," said a Mozilla spokesperson to The Verge. "We have worked on code that launches Firefox when the microsoft-edge protocol is used for those users that have already chosen Firefox as their default browser. Following the recent change to Windows 11, this planned implementation will no longer be possible."

Microsoft forcing people to use Microsoft Edge has led to frustration among many Windows users. Blocking EdgeDeflector and any app that intercepts edge:// protocol links led many to express disdain over the weekend.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

40 Comments
  • Edge Dev is my default. I never use "Edge" version yet forced to. Microsoft has seemingly gone too far.
  • I happen to like edge as a browser, but MS should rethink this. Or, hopefully some anti-trust agencies will look into this. MS - let me control my OS, this isn't hard.
  • Agreed. I use Edge, so this doesn't affect me, but this is BS. I hope it gets them in anti-competitive trouble.
  • I like Edge quite a bit....in fact, I can no longer find any downsides compared to other browsers.
    At this moment, I'm on an M1 Macbook Air...using Edge. Perfection. Don't like being forced, though.
  • I always laugh at the people who yell at Microsoft for forcing them to use Edge in certain situations, but then jump on their iPhones which forces you to use Apple's built-in apps as default (Safari and Mail are the exception). If I had an iPhone, I'd be angrier that I can't use Google Maps by default than I would be about being pushed to Edge for a few things in Windows.
  • I'm against both of those situations, as are many people.
  • Same. I wouldn't touch an Apple product.
  • Google does similar thing with its apps in android forcing us to open in Chrome.
  • That isn't the case at all for me, there isn't a single app on my Android phone that opens links in Chrome, it's always Edge, and it just took one setting change. Even Google's own apps open Edge on my phone. I would be incredibly pissed if they didn't do what I had set it to.
  • The Google search app almost always opens the links in Chrome. That's why I had to delete disable Chrome on my phone.
  • That's true. But I'd argue that conceptually a desktop OS should be more open and customizable, as it is mostly for productivity. You don't want to get in the way of a user's flow. MS of course only cares so much about your flow; they also care about things like browser market share, and aren't content with just competing on quality (in which case they'd do well since Edge is a good browser).
  • I mean you can uninstall Apple Maps, no? So what do you use then?
  • This is pretty transparent: MS is getting their browser user numbers up. Not cool. On the other hand, they're competing with a dominant company that has absolutely zero qualms about shady moves like this. "Don't be evil" my foot.
  • "EdgeDeflector has 500,000 users, according to its developer, but another app attempting to redirect edge:// protocol links may have driven Microsoft to block the behavior. Mozilla planned to implement similar functionality in its browser, which has 200 million users." Are you insinuating that all 200million Mozilla users use EdgeDeflector? If not how many?
    I am curious if there is anything like Chrome and or Sarafi deflectors?
  • No. Mozilla has a similar feature to EdgeDeflector in the works. If 200 million Firefox users could use a feature similar to EdgeDeflector, that could lower how many people are forced onto Edge.
  • No. EdgeDeflecctor isn't related to Mozilla. Mozilla are doing their own thing.
  • How do you quote that exact excerpt and then ask "are you insinuating... Blah blah blah"? Reading is fundamental
  • I can't comprehend why anyone would install and use Chrome on a Windows machine anymore... much less Mozilla. I suppose there are specific cases where compatibility may come into play or something. Or if you feel about MS the way I feel about Google (iow, "I don't want them to have any more data than they have to"). And it seems very hard at this stage to break people's Chrome habit, regardless of how good Edge becomes. However... this does not seem like the way way to try it... there will be far too much backlash, and it may well make people not enjoy the Edge experience simply because they're being forced into it.
  • Because Mozilla is generally better at not harvesting user data for profit. Firefox is free and open source.
  • Why does Microsoft care if we use their version of Chrome?
  • Seriously? Because the ad revenue for Edge goes to a different company than the ad revenue for Chrome, or Firefox. Because you can sell more ads if your user numbers are higher.
  • Your heart isn't in it anymore, bleached. Trolling is for the young.
  • i hate how i use edge dev, but stuff opens the release edge... very annoying.
  • This would be fair enough if the Edge:// was doing more then just parsing to Bing.com. When all its doing is loading a website this stinks of similar bogus arguments Microsoft used about Internet Explorer and Windows 95 back in the day. Edge is the only browser I use but if people want to use Chrome or Firefox. Let them.
  • Here in Europe we can ask the European Government to inspect the Windows-Edge situation and if they believe Microsoft forces people to far, they wil take steps against Microsoft. And they did it before, when IE was forinstalled and Microsoft didn't let people a choice of internet browser, so they won't be afraid of them, the forced them once again. And they will succeed.
  • This is Microsoft forcing a tube down the horse's throat to make it drink.
  • Edge is fine. The only reason I don't use it is that it is not compatible with a good 1/2 of the services I use (at least not smoothly: NetSuite, 2 of our 3 banks, a number of our docusign mats and some others). It's perfectly fine as a browser (I'm not looking for much), but no 3rd party users can keep up with MS and all it's changes. It just makes it hard. That and the barrage of pointless and unblockable marketing... sheesh...
  • Redirecting app specific links is a bad thing. Flat out. Complain that they're using edge links instead of https links as much as you like, because a lot of the behavior you're all complaining about, including the way release edge gets directed to instead of edge dev goes away if they're treated as normal web links. You don't, as a general engineering rule, want a call that expects something very specific to actually go to something else. It can lead to really problematic bugs in the long term. But they're doing this for a reason that isn't about boosting edge stats too. They want to be able to ensure the behavior, end to end, for OS links for non technical people. They do not want service calls from people who've set a different default browser without actually understanding what that means about why clicking on a widget or running search is resulting in unexpected behaviors, etc. It's why it defaults to release which is going to be more stable than dev. You can argue that this is not necessary, that any issues that might arise aren't going to be sufficient to justify removing choice, or that the features themselves aren't important enough for it to be worth the lock in, but it makes sense to want to be able to validate certain experiences. They can't do that if it goes to any browser. Mozilla or Google could make a change that breaks their results pages. They would have no control over that, and that's not a position you want to be in with an OS feature.
  • What “specifics” are expected in a web browser? “Embrace-n-extend 2.0”?
    When mobile-first approach failed, they went to user data mining, like Google.
    Google, your move? Fuchsia OS for PCs, i hope.
  • Yes. This is what I was referring to without using so many words.
  • What? Please explicitly explain what exactly would crash and burn if you open a web link from an app to the browser of your choice instead of Edge? Complete and utter BS.
  • This pushed me over the edge, into cupertino’s hands.
  • ROTFLMAO.... moving from China to North Korea.
  • I've only used edge since it came out. I understand what they are trying to do which is a full experience. It's sometimes hard to pinpoint a issue if you're using two different services that may or may not work together, or maybe just work differently. This is the same thing that Apple does, and although I hate their devices, I understand the reasoning behind it. With that being said, I also believe in choice. You should have the option to use what you want since we pay so much money for these devices.
  • Again... What if Edge has code to make this small subset of features work properly? Google does for their web apps and chrome.
  • Ah... so? Were people who redirect this with a unsupported workaround ever going to contact Microsoft about something not working? In fact I have never in my life contacted MS for support outside of patch issues with our WSUS. There is literally no reason to block this other then being petty.
  • If people are using chrome then I don't understand the problem... Just import everything into edge. They are both chromium and it's only a couple things that open in edge. There's probably a reason they open in edge as well and it's not just because MS wants people to use it. Plus if you're worried about telemetry or analytics then why are you using chrome in the first place? Not only does chrome tell google everything you do in chrome it also gathers more telemetry data on Windows than Windows itself. The difference is Windows telemetry is anonymous while chromes isn't. Nobody should be forced to use any browser that they don't want to but if they are forcing edge for these features then isn't it reasonable to assume that edge has some customization on top of chromium for those features? Chrome has customizations for Google web apps that make them work better and faster. Microsoft can't do the same? As for someone's comment about anti trust... No, this doesn't qualify. The tech company that really should be broken up is Alphabet. They have gotten out of control in many ways but they get a free pass because... They aren't MS.
  • This shows how ignorant you are.
    Microsoft is also pretty big and monopolistic, At least with Google you are giving away data in exchange for services you won't find anywhere else.
    Also half the information you said about Chrome is incorrect, Google Chrome was better In security and privacy in a research done on many browsers and what they collect. than both Yandex and Microsoft Edge.
  • I have to agree with Cosmic Andromeda, you sound like someone who would be at home living in China under the CCP. Like Microsoft, they will justify why they take away your freedom of choice with BS as well.
  • Just another reason not to install the Windows 11 virus.