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Microsoft Confirms Anticompetitive Edge Browser Behavior in Windows 11

Microsoft Edge
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft this week confirmed to Paul Thurrott that it is forcing the Edge browser on Windows 11 users in specific scenarios (i.e., opening search results from the Start menu). Moreover, the company is taking this action even if customers have a third-party browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox set as their default browser.

“Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers,” said Microsoft in a statement to Thurrott. “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.”

Microsoft is, of course, talking about EdgeDeflector. Daniel Aleksandersen, the developer of EdgeDeflector, noticed that Windows 11 builds 22483 and 22494 Insider Preview builds blocked his app from functioning. So Aleksandersen designed EdgeDeflector to allow a Windows user’s default browser to display Start menu search results, bypassing Microsoft’s hijacking of the customer’s default browser choice.

When a customer sets Chrome, for example, as their default browser, it’s a reasonable assumption that it would be used within Windows 11 for all browser-related duties. Microsoft disagrees as it cites a disruption to the end-to-end user experience for customers with workaround apps like EdgeDeflector. However, we’d argue that if a customer has chosen to use a third-party browser, forcing Edge upon them for simple tasks is a direct contradiction of this edict.

“It’s clearly a user-hostile move that sees Windows compromise its own product usability in order to make it more difficult to use competing products,” said Aleksandersen last week. “Your web browser is probably the most important — if not the only — app you regularly use. Microsoft has made it clear that its priorities for Windows don’t align with its users’.”

Aleksandersen tells users to complain to local antitrust regulators or switch to a competing operating system like Linux to put pressure on Microsoft. However, if you want a slightly complicated workaround for Microsoft’s latest attack on default browsers, there’s a new script that allows you to maintain the status quo.

This is the latest saga in the default browser battle in Windows 11. The company caught flak recently, most vocally from Firefox developer Mozilla, for making it more difficult for users to switch their default browser.

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.

  • Colif
    Edge built into OS, its hardly hijacking something its built into.

    its hard enough already to change defaults, so its no surprise they try to make us use Edge since most people just ignore it.

    wonder how many people use widgets, I never look in that tab.

    I found MS websites that only display right if you use Edge, Chrome and FF will show pages strangely
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    Ah... New Microsoft doing old Microsoft things... With the Execs change I thought they'd turn a new leaf, but this goes to show you old habits die hard when they're a systematic part of the culture in any Company. This makes me think Intel may go back to their scummy behaviour now that AMD is competitive again.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • salgado18
    Yuka said:
    This makes me think Intel may go back to their scummy behaviour now that AMD is competitive again.
    Did they ever stop? :rolleyes:

    It's amazing how Microsoft just forces the user to do things using their technologies. Edge everywhere, hard (or impossible) to make offline accounts for the OS, Teams and OneDrive as default... With Windows, you don't opt-in, you always opt-out, if at all.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    This article is about how windows search works...
    the search experience from the taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected
    This is part of the design of the OS, if a customer calls up MS to ask them how to fix a problem it's essential that everybody using the OS uses the same tools for them to be able to help.
    Substituting system tools has always been a hack and not supported.
    Reply
  • BillyBuerger
    There's another easy fix to this issue, don't use Windows to search the web. With Win10 I always disabled the taskbar search as it wasted useful space. The only thing I search the start menu for is applications that are in the start menu. When I'm searching the web, I open my web browser of choice which is almost always already open in the first place.
    Reply
  • Elterrible
    Yuka said:
    Ah... New Microsoft doing old Microsoft things... With the Execs change I thought they'd turn a new leaf, but this goes to show you old habits die hard when they're a systematic part of the culture in any Company. This makes me think Intel may go back to their scummy behaviour now that AMD is competitive again.

    Regards.

    Yeah well, they only stopped because they were under an antitrust ruling. Once they were released from that judgement, they began to do this crap again and I’m just ready to pick a Linux distribution and run with it. I have my Mac for commercial use software and have no real need for Windows now, so it just makes sense.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    salgado18 said:
    Did they ever stop? :rolleyes:
    Heh, touché.

    Elterrible said:
    Yeah well, they only stopped because they were under an antitrust ruling. Once they were released from that judgement, they began to do this crap again and I’m just ready to pick a Linux distribution and run with it. I have my Mac for commercial use software and have no real need for Windows now, so it just makes sense.
    With Win10 they were correcting a lot of the scummy things they've done in the past TBH. Or at least, that's what it appears like from my end and experience using Win10. That being said, I did skip Win8, so I can't comment there, but at least Win11 is bad from so many angles that I'll just skip it if possible.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • OBTC
    Makes me even happier I switched to Linux Mint as my daily driver a few years ago. I still have a Win 10 machine for those rare occasions I play games, but everything else is Linux all the way.
    Reply