Experts Worry Microsoft Forcing Edge on Us Is Just the Beginning

It's not the first time Microsoft has played this game

Key Takeaways

  • In Windows 10 and 11, Microsoft made it so weather apps and other widgets will open pages in its Edge browser instead of your default browser.
  • Developers like Daniel Aleksandersen, and some browsers like Brave and Firefox, used workarounds to make those links open in your chosen browser.
  • Microsoft is now forcing people to use Edge if they open a link from any of its widgets and searches. Experts are worried it won’t stop there.
man using a Windows 11 laptop

Windows / Unsplash

Microsoft is issuing an update for Windows that will block third-party apps and browsers from intercepting links it created to open in Edge. Experts say the move doesn't respect our browser choice and are worried about other changes Microsoft could make in the future.

Microsoft first began its push back against third-party browsers with the release of Windows 10, where it made it more difficult to set up a new default browser by hiding it behind multiple steps. Experts are now concerned a move to block third-party apps from intercepting links that force Microsoft Edge to open could lead to further app restrictions in the future.

"You have to ask yourself, 'when does it stop?'" Michael Partridge, an experienced web developer with designdough, told Lifewire in an email. "Is the next step forcing Bing over Google?"

Why It Matters

Forcing consumers to use a specific browser might seem like a silly concern, but in a world where big tech is constantly vying for any foothold on the market, the slope gets slippery very quickly. 

"At what point does a small change, which might not outwardly seem like a big deal, take a step too far?" Partridge asked.

Since the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft has made it more difficult to set default apps. When setting a new browser, you now have to set it as the default for multiple file extensions instead of the system automatically setting it. That's not a huge deal, but in Windows 11, Microsoft is forcing you to use Edge in many cases, including when searching from the Start Menu search bar.

Windows 11 start menu search results

Lifewire / Joshua Hawkins

Anytime you search for something on the web via the search box on your Start Menu, or anytime you select the results in your widgets, the operating system creates a Microsoft Edge link, which forces the browser to open. Previously, you could use apps like EdgeDeflector to bypass that and change the link into a standard HTTP link. Now, Microsoft is locking that out entirely.

As EdgeDeflector creator Daniel Aleksandersen notes in a recent announcement, there's nothing special about these links. As such, there's no reason for Microsoft to force people to use Edge for them. Additionally, if you uninstall Edge completely, then click something that launches one of those links, it loads up a broken application, making those features completely useless.

Microsoft told The Verge that the change was made to protect "end-to-end customer experiences," but Aleksandersen and others say it's just another way for the company to dictate how people use their computers.

History Repeating

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has skirted this particular line. In the early 2000s, it found itself in a similar position when a judge ruled that the company had unlawfully maintained a monopoly with Windows by tying Internet Explorer into the OS.

The initial consequences of that ruling changed a bit after it was passed, but when the dust settled, Microsoft was told to make the operating system interoperable with non-Microsoft software. That decree was settled on for five years, but it was extended twice, finally expiring in May 2011.

the extensions you need to set default options for when changing the default browser in Windows 11

Lifewire / Joshua Hawkins

Many believe the outcome of that case had a significant impact on the current landscape of the technological world. While it started as a browser war, it became much bigger before all was said and done. Now, though, experts are concerned Microsoft could be testing the waters again, trying to push its way back into the spotlight by finding ways to force users to use its applications, like Edge.

"People deserve choice," a Mozilla spokesperson told Lifewire when asked about the changes. "They should have the ability to simply and easily set defaults, and their choice of default browser should be respected."

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