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Microsoft forcing people to use Edge is familiar, frustrating, and foul play

Microsoft Edge Update Dev New2
Microsoft Edge Update Dev New2 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft recently explained why it prevents apps like EdgeDeflector from intercepting links that open Microsoft Edge. In addition to its statement not adequately justifying such a stance, it also fails to address a bigger issue — that people should be able to use their own default browser.

Windows 11 uses edge:/protocol links in certain elements of the OS, such as the News widget. These links open in Microsoft Edge even if you have a different browser set as your default. Until recently, EdgeDeflector could intercept these types of links and redirect them to whichever browser people would like. Microsoft was apparently unhappy with this, as well as the fact that Mozilla was working on a similar feature for Firefox. As a result, the tech giant "fixed" the "improper redirection."

Before I dive into the situation, here's the statement a Microsoft spokesperson provided about the topic:

Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers. 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.

To paraphrase, Windows lets people use non-Microsoft applications to perform tasks, except when Microsoft wants people to have to use Edge.

This isn't about the quality of Edge

Edge Dev Hero 2020 Newfeature

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The issue with this situation isn't related to if Edge is a good browser or not. I use Edge as my daily driver. This article was written in Word online and then published through Windows Central on Edge. The problem with what Microsoft's doing is that it's forcing people to use the browser.

Microsoft says that there are certain experiences that aren't designed to be redirected. Why? Is a story from the News widget only going to work in Edge? When I search for "how to change my default browser" in the Taskbar, am I only going to see good search results in Edge? If Microsoft is going to let people set a default browser, that's what it should be, a default browser. In the event I set Chrome, Brave, Firefox, or anything else as my default browser, I should never see a link open in Edge.

Mozilla seems to agree with me. "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 spokesperson for the company to The Verge (check the hyperlinked story up above for the full scoop).

The developer of EdgeDeflector is more direct. They state, "these aren't the actions of an attentive company that cares about its product anymore. Microsoft isn't a good steward of the Windows operating system. They're prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users' productivity."

This isn't new behavior from Microsoft

Internet Explorer 11 about page

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I won't claim to be a legal expert, but I will highlight that Microsoft attempting to force people to use a browser isn't new. Decades ago it was Internet Explorer. Now, it's Edge. Microsoft seems hell-bent on getting people to use its browsers, even by force.

Forcing people to use a certain piece of software is always a bad look. I've seen people point out that Apple makes people use certain apps by default. So what? That's bad too. I'm not going to excuse a company for ignoring default app settings because I use their products.

Microsoft, Google, Apple, and all other companies should give people a choice. The situation with Microsoft is particularly infuriating because Windows claims that you can set different apps as your defaults. It then duly notes and ignores those settings.

This isn't the way

News Interests Lead 2021

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Edge is a fine option in and of itself. Plenty of people I know have switched over to the Chromium version of Edge as their daily browser. But I guess that isn't good enough for Microsoft. Rather than organically converting people to its product, Microsoft appears determined to use the dominance of Windows to foist Edge on users so everyone and their grandma has to summon the browser when they click the weather widget on the Taskbar to check out the forecast. Spoiler alert, it's partly cloudy with a chance of Microsoft spitting on you and saying it's rain.

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).

39 Comments
  • I disagree with the thrust of your argument. There are certain use scenarios where Android does the same. Search is a great example where I am forced to use Chrome when searching on Android by default. The world has also changed drastically since the EU stepped in as Windows is no longer the dominent or only real way to access or browse the internet. There just isn't a strong anti competitive argument to be made anymore due to mobile and other desktop OSes being available that behave the same way
  • I'm definitely not forced to use Chrome when searching on Android.
  • Nor am I.
  • When you boot up an Android phone for the first time in some markets, Europe for example, you literally have to choose your search engine. If Chrome is the only browser you have installed, it’ll use it. Otherwise Android respects your default browser.
  • Interesting. I have Edge that I use on Android. I must have missed that option. Not intending to troll
  • I'm not sure that "Google is just as bad" is a good argument in favour of Microsoft's approach and I'm not sure that it's true anyway. I have an Android phone and, while I can't uninstall Chrome, there's nothing I do on my phone that opens Chrome rather than Edge. Mind you, I use Microsoft Launcher so I'm not sure whether the default launcher might use Chrome even if I were to choose a different default browser. Like the author, I use Edge as my default browser on Windows but support the right of others to choose a different browser and have that choice respected whenever a browser is opened.
  • You are lying and you know it. Not only searches are not redirected to Chrome when your default browser is something else, but you also can uninstall Chrome completely (something you can't do with Edge on Windows).
  • Uninstall of Chrome is not available on my Android, are you talking about using advanced settings?
  • I agree. I am even forced to use Chrome on Android even in Microsoft's apps.
  • To be honest, they are all just fighting both in the open and in dark for dominance and a way to create a close ecosystem services kind of thing, even if that would result in the disatisfaction of the end user and bad publicity.
    Honestly, if Microsoft was not so bent on making profit from everything and would be more wise in the choices, a lot of their products would still be around like windows phone and a lot of other services that I'm not familiar with since I'm not from a country prioritized by the company....
  • Uhh what company isn't "bent on making profit from everything"? Of course they are, their (and any other tech company) goal is to make as much money as possible.
  • Why is this a bad thing, when some apps or web links only give you an option to use Chrome or some other browser? I've not been a fan of many of Microsoft's decisions, but you can't tell me that no other tech company has done this to get people to use their services.
  • Why is it bad when all the other tech companies also do the bad thing? That's the point. They're all doing something bad. I shared an example of Apple in the article.
  • Okay so here's the biggest problem with what you're suggesting. I create a piece of malicious software that redirects an edge: link to a customized browser that takes the widget or search endpoints and inserts code into the results that redirects you to malware or phishing sites. Now anytime someone clicks on an OS level link they're running face first into it. And because they clicked on an OS level link, or ran an OS level search, they have expectations that this is safe. I can do this with software that seems like it has legitimate uses as well. Allowing interception of edge links cannot be allowed, period. Allowing interception of *any* links so that they do not go to the system level defaults cannot be allowed. They could be using https links instead though. But to answer your question about why certain experiences require edge, it's just that they wouldn't have as much control in making sure that those widget or search result pages displayed properly and were secure. This is not an illegitimate concern given that the vast majority of windows users are not technically sophisticated. Mozilla could make a change that breaks the widget result page and then someone would click an OS level link and get something broken. If the widgets grow in sophistication, I could be leaking user information by passing data from them to an unknown browser that might lead to privacy or confidentiality issues. This is bad UX. There's a different level of trust required in OS level links. Especially in the context of low technical skill users. When they launch a browser and go somewhere and something goes wrong they blame the browser. When they click a widget and something goes wrong they blame Windows, even if the reason is Firefox. Avoiding that is reasonable. But it's definitely also something you can argue against. Using https links instead would be reasonable as well. They come with different trade offs and this isn't just a sneaky way to get users to be using Edge. But if they're going to use an edge link, it *has* to go where it says it's going. Just like http links go to the default browser and can't be redirected either. You do not want the door to at all be open to apps bypassing those system level defaults. We'd be back to all of those browser hijack attacks from the 2000s.
  • "OS level" searches don't mess with any "OS level" data or file. Just choose wisely your browser, and that's it. What you're claiming about "OS level" just doesn't makes any sense because that's not how it works.
  • I never said they did so you clearly didn't process what I wrote. There are two factors in play, one is link redirection which is a security issue full stop. You are not choosing your browser with link redirection, a third party is and the third party can redirect anywhere it wants without it being obvious it isn't where it says. This is clearly bad. That's what they stopped allowing that triggered this article. The other issue is UX flow ownership. Basically that they're using edge links instead of generic web links in the first place. This is not about OS level data or files, and I never said it was. I really don't know where you got that. I referenced a hypothetical about feature growth in widgets and data privacy around that but it's pretty clear that's not currently an issue. And it would only relate to the widget functionality anyway. It could be a concern in the same way that unique edge functionality could be a concern if the system action required it (for instance a widget that launched an experience that required Edge's inking functionality). None of that is currently an issue, but are examples of reasons for why an edge link vs a generic web link might be better to use in some cases. That's just an adjunct to the bigger point, which is that there's a different promise being made in terms of UX when you have a button in the OS vs when you have a button in a browser. That's the distinction I was drawing around OS level link. MS owns the OS button in terms of all of its consequences. They put the button there and it's expected to behave a certain way if it doesn't, even if it's because the user or a third party screwed something up, it's still a problem for them. Conversely, when a user opens a browser and navigates to a search site the browser owns that UX, not the OS. If it breaks the user has a problem with the browser, not the OS. That difference is significant. Creating links you can't control the output of complicates UX flow. It's not fatal, you can design around it, but it's not without engineering trade offs.
  • Quite articulate answer. You seem to really have been involved in UX design.
  • Sean won't reply because he just got completely owned right here. Wonder if he will take his kneejerk uneducated article down.
  • You make solid points about UX design and function and great food for thought
  • I read the article, but my point is that even apps and services do this. I've clicked on links and some apps will direct you to Chrome, despite your prefered browser setting. It's not a regular enough thing for me to consider it an issue. However, I get your point about Microsoft, but at the end of the day, their preference is for people to use their services. Apple is a great example, as you've mentioned. They tie you into their devices and service, with little to no other choices. I think there has to be some middle ground for both the company and consumer. Total free reign only benefits the consumer and the opposit is true for consumers. IMO
  • What about Google's constant and never ending reminder of switching to Chrome crap?
  • When your response starts with "what about..." you have already lost. That someone else is doing something bad is not a justification for Microsoft doing something bad. The solution is for Google and everyone else to not do the bad thing either.
  • At this point, if you're not voluntarily using Edge, which is now the best browser, you're just not that bright! 😁😝
  • That thing flying over your head? It's the point.
  • Scroll up an read eorilins comments and pipe down. You guys don't know what you are writing about anymore
  • Even if that were true, it is a person's prerogative to not be that bright.
  • You really like Microsoft’s Chrome skin?
  • Why do you enjoy being wrong so much?
  • I just uninstalled Edge completely
    Even the notice in the settings banner is gone
    More info on many sites
    I used Techradar how to completely uninstall edge
    It won't be reinstalled after updates/upgrades
    Btw I will stay on win10 for much longer
  • Wow, well at least they aren't mandating it as the only option. Apple does the same with Safari which is a joke.
  • It's like if people were forced to use Chrome browser on a Chrome os computer
  • Does the fact that someone else does a bad thing make it less bad?
  • This is a little off topic, but I would like to see a standard created for URL scheme for a location; expressed in latitude and longitude. Browsers should support a redirection to the mapping web app of choice configured in the browser. This form of open location links could change the digital mapping dominance Google has; and there is a lot of money in digital mapping.
  • It's no different that what Apple or Google does. Not sure why it's such a surprise. I like using edge.
  • That doesn't make it any less bad. It just means that more companies are doing the bad thing. Shouldn't Microsoft aim to be better than Apple and Google?
  • This is a dumb take. News articles or weather coming from Edge as the back end for widgets make no affect on your life. You can use whatever browser you want for browsing and searching. Bad take.
  • Yeah. The things using edge links currently are meant to be single actions, completed and then closed. They're not supposed to stick around. Currently this is not implemented well if you're using Edge, because it opens a new tab instead of opening a new window. Ideally these should be opening in something more akin to a web app and not a full browser instance.
  • EdgeDeflector uses a method commonly called Protocol hijack. So it should not exist. As simple as that 😊
  • The perceived need for it to exist shouldn't exist either.