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Microsoft really wants you to use Edge, and it's getting aggressive about it

Edge Dev Hero 2020 Newfeature
Edge Dev Hero 2020 Newfeature (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Updated November 12, 2021 at 1:57 PM ET: Microsoft responded to our enquiry and directed us to the release notes of a previous Insider build of Windows 11. The article has been updated accordingly.

What you need to know

  • A change to Windows 11 Insider preview builds prevents EdgeDeflector from working.
  • EdgeDeflector allows you to open links found in the shell of Windows 11 and Windows 10 in your browser of choice.
  • Many have expressed frustration over the fact that Microsoft forces certain links to open in its Edge browser.

A recent Insider build of Windows 11 affects the ability of EdgeDeflector to redirect links. Certain elements of Windows 11 and Windows 10, such as the News and interests widget, open links in Edge regardless of which browser is set as default. This is done through the use of edge:// protocol links. These types of links bypass default browser settings to open a webpage within Edge. EdgeDeflector worked around this by intercepting edge:// protocol links, but the app no longer works on the latest Insider builds of Windows 11.

"You can't change the default protocol association through registry changes, OEM partner customizations, modifications to the Microsoft Edge package, interference with OpenWith.exe, or any other hackish workarounds," explained the developer of EdgeDeflector.

The developer claimed that the change occurred sometime between Windows 11 builds 22483 and 22494, both of which are Insider builds. They claimed that these changes aren't a bug but that they're the result of a deliberate change by Microsoft, "This isn't a bug in the Windows Insider preview build. Microsoft has made specific changes to how Windows handles the microsoft-edge:// protocol."

A̶s̶ ̶M̶i̶c̶r̶o̶s̶o̶f̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶n̶g̶e̶ We cannot comment regarding the company's intent or any future plans regarding edge:// protocol links. What is known is that EdgeDeflector does not work on the latest Insider builds of Windows 11.

When reached out for a comment, Microsoft directed us to the release notes for Windows 11 build 22000.346, which states:

We fixed an issue where OS functionality could be improperly redirected when microsoft-edge: links are invoked.

Microsoft did not specify if it views EdgeDeflector as an example of improperly redirecting edge:// protocol links.

EdgeDeflector will remain available for download, but its developer won't try to update it until Microsoft changes how it handles edge:// protocol links. The developer of EdgeDeflector stated that there are still ways to make the app work on Windows 11 but that they "require making destructive changes to Windows."

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

18 Comments
  • Whats even odd, even you use Edge Dev or Beta, it will force you anyways. Seriously though, why launch a Web browser when clicking a widget?
  • It's terrible init. Should open the edge browser internally inside the widget. That's what Android does, it seamlessly launches the page using whatever your default browser is. No dumping into another app.
  • Well even worse is that it doesn't even need to open a web browser to begin with when a native installed app already exist. Clicking a weather should open a Weather app, not opening another Edge window. The problem with Widget is basically a glorified MSN page, not a proper widget system like the Live Tiles and Windows Gadget it replaced, or similar to Android or iOS. But yeah, back to Edge Deflector, if they just allow the OS to actually respect the selected default browser for its own shell features, this thing don't even need to exist.
  • I don't mind. edge and Microsoft bing are far better then anything else out there so I'm good.
  • It isn't about 'minding', it's about having a choice. If their claims are true, this would point to Microsoft moving down the Apple walled-garden path. There are certainly other indicators of that happening so add this to the list. I think what MS fails to recognize is that most people don't actually 'like' Windows. It's that they use it because it is the most accessible and fully featured OS available. As an enthusiast, I can't say I have liked Windows since Windows 7. As Linux has become more user friendly, the more MS walls things off the more people, including myself, will begin to jump ship.
  • Linux is great for power users and situations that utilize specialist distros and use-cases, but this idea that Linux (even the 'user-friendly' distros) is remotely user friendly is pure fantasy. The current series on LTT is proving that without even trying. When you're in the realm of installing something like Pop! and you're able to accidentally and innocently completely nuke the GUI just by trying to install Steam, necessitating a full reinstall of the OS, trust me, there's no danger of people 'jumping ship' other than the enthusiasts who don't mind having a second full-time tech support job to prop up their hobby. TLDR there's a reason why Linux lives at ~2% market share, and there's no growth there whatsoever.
  • My dude I started using Linux last year during the first great lockdown to learn something new. Sure it's different and there's things to learn. But Google (other search engines are available) is your friend. Linus is not the oracle of Linux sucking. Linus did stupid things at a time there was an unfortunate bug. Tell me when Microsoft ever shipped Windows without bugs?
  • This is will only drive people to use Widgets even less. Such a clever move Microsoft. "I think what MS fails to recognize is that most people don't actually 'like' Windows." This is just not true. As many people like Windows as dislike it. Besides people like MacBooks, do they "like" MacOS? Both Windows and MacOS are based on paradigms from the 1980s and have a tonne of bloat. Linux would suck on any Surface except the Surface Laptop/Surface Laptop Go.
  • *some* people don't like windows - fixed that for you.
  • Outside of the Windows Central bubble (and other similar ones) Windows is hardly a product the masses are enthusiastic about. It's a commodity. Like a washing machine. People use it because it does what they need it to do and largely hasn't changed in forever.
  • What a pain! It's been a little while since I used the widgets pane anyway, but this will make it even less likely that I will do so in the future.
  • Microsoft got sued by The EU in the 90s for forcing Internet Explorer on people. I'm surprised they're doing this.
  • EU is limbering up as we speak I'm sure. They love a good lawsuit.
  • This is will only drive people to use Widgets even less. Such a clever move Microsoft.
  • Microsoft has absolutely no respect to their customers. A fraction of (power)users will use such a hack, so what's the point of blocking them anyway? They'll still find a way. The only thing Microsoft is getting is bad press. Once again. They should focus on the usability and performance of Windows - which is being humiliated by Apple on their last ARM platform - instead of this. As a Microsoft product customer I'm feeling shameful of using their platform actually.
  • Well, this was another ill thought out kneejerk reaction. Microsoft really should have pages load inside the widget and have a button that says “view in Edge”. So if they want to view in Edge, people can choose to do so. Right now, people can simply copy the link when it opens in Edge and then open their preferred browser. Or search for the article in their preferred browser. Sure, these are extra steps and I seriously doubt Microsoft is going to go anti-consumer and block these options. As they will get fined so fast you wouldn't know if you blinked or not. So, this ill thought idea is not solving anything *facepalm*.
  • Yeah, sadly it's more of knee-jerk reaction. If they believe that Edge is that good, why do this? Instead this just erode trust. But also why Widget opens a Web browser anyways for a functionality that already exist on a native app still baffles me. Widgets isn't even that much useful in Windows 11, and forcing their Web browser certainly don't even help that cause. Though Widgets seriously needs to work like a native ones like on iOS/iPadOS and Android. Even Live Tiles work locally and thus quite performant, it only need to fetch information, but the shell itself isn't something only lives on a Web wrapper.
  • They can push it as much as they like but I still won't use it. I'll stick to Opera and Chrome browsers.