Microsoft has not stopped forcing Edge on Windows 11 users

Created on November 12, 2023 at 11:32 am

Microsoft ORG published a blog post on the Windows Insider Blog LAW in late August DATE with a vague statement saying that “ Windows PRODUCT system components“ were to begin respecting the default web browser setting. Windows 10 CARDINAL and 11 regularly bypass this setting and force-open links in Microsoft Edge ORG instead. In my extensive testing, I haven’t found any changes in the new Windows Insider PRODUCT version.

You may have read stories in the tech media celebrating that Windows ORG will finally respect the default browser setting. This reporting seems to have been done completely without verification and based entirely on a misunderstanding. The source of the confusion is this one highlighted but vague entry in the changelog for a recent Windows 11 PRODUCT Insider preview build:

In the European Economic Area ORG ( EEA ORG ), Windows PRODUCT system components use the default browser to open links. Announcing Windows 11 LAW Insider Preview Build 23531 ( Dev Channel PERSON ) , Amanda Langowski PERSON

Brandon LeBlanc PERSON

The highlight makes it sound like Microsoft ORG has finally caved to regulatory pressure from the European Union ORG ( EU ORG ). The software powerhouse has abused the dominant market position of its Windows PRODUCT operating system to promote its Edge ORG web browser and services for too long.

I’ve followed this developing story closely over the years DATE . I even developed the popular open-source EdgeDeflector ORG program that hijacked web links destined for Microsoft Edge ORG and directed them back to your default web browser. Microsoft ORG finally reacted and blocked EdgeDeflector ORG from working once the Mozilla Firefox ORG and Brave browsers began building the functionality into their web browsers.

Excitedly, I installed the new Windows Insider PRODUCT build and began testing the changes to see them in action. At first ORDINAL , I didn’t believe my findings. Nothing had changed from the current version of Windows 11 PRODUCT .

The new Windows PRODUCT version still strongly discourages changing the default browser away from Microsoft Edge ORG .

After system updates, the new version still aggressively prompts you with a captive full-screen experience on start-up to reset your default web browser to Microsoft Edge ORG .

Web links in primary surfaces still force-open Microsoft Edge ORG — including links in the new Copilot ORG , Start menu, Search ORG on the taskbar and desktop, Windows Spotlight PRODUCT , first-party apps (Outlook, Teams, News, Weather, and more), and Widgets on the taskbar (formerly called News and Weather).

I’ve verified my findings in the Home and Professional editions of Windows PRODUCT and even the EU ORG -specific “N” variants of each edition. I’ve tested in two CARDINAL configurations for Norway GPE ( EEA ORG member) and Germany GPE ( EEA ORG and EU ORG member). For both tests, I installed devices with region and locale settings matching the desired country with IP addresses and geolocation sensor data to match.

I’ve checked, double-, and triple-checked my findings. Nothing has changed. Web links still force-open in Microsoft Edge ORG instead of your default web browser.

Microsoft ORG

first ORDINAL announced the changes for Windows Insider PRODUCT build 23531 CARDINAL (Developer channel). I waited for two CARDINAL more releases and retested with builds 23536 CARDINAL and 23541 DATE , both from the Developer channel. I also retested with the Canary channel, which is even further ahead on the development tree than the Developer channel.

Microsoft ORG sometimes gradually rolls out changes in the Windows Insider PRODUCT program to a limited set of users. It does not document publicly which new changes are gradually rolled out. However, there were only two CARDINAL new experiments in build 23531 CARDINAL . None of them are related to default browser settings or Microsoft Edge ORG . The new changes to default browser handling may be a gradual rollout, though.

Microsoft ORG was vague about the change, and neither its customers nor the tech media verified their assumptions before running with the story. Despite not having implemented the changes everyone assumed it had, it has received lots of positive press attention for doing the right thing.

I have not found anyone commenting on whether this change worked for them in the many and extensive discussions on Hacker News ORG , Reddit, and other social media. I’ve also not found any traces of confirmation or checks in the hundreds CARDINAL of news sites that ran the story nor in their comment sections. There has also been no mention of it in the Insider Feedback Hub ORG or any subsequent Windows Insider ORG build announcements or changelogs.

I have not reached out to Microsoft ORG for a comment on this story. Frankly, at this point, I rather assume they hate me personally more than they hate their average customers. Microsoft ORG has also refused to make statements to The Register and The Verge ORG for their stories on the vague changes.

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