Windows 11 is going to be Microsoft’s most interesting PC operating system for several reasons. One of them will be the ability of Windows 11 to make it hard for users to change the default web browser from Microsoft Edge to, say, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. It will be interesting because Microsoft has never done a thing like this. And even though it reeks of insecurity and regressiveness, complicating the process of choosing a default browser is a good strategy for Microsoft.
According to The Verge, switching the default web browser on Windows 11 is complicated, so much so that most users would give up and stay with Microsoft Edge as the default one.
So what happens is, when you install a new browser using Microsoft Edge, you see a prompt to choose a new browser for Windows 11. It is easy and intuitive for users who have just downloaded a new web browser per their preference. Users can quickly select a browser and continue with their browsing. When they do that, they are not really changing the default browser, unless they toggle the “Always use this app” at the bottom. On clicking the box next to it, you set your choice of the browser as the default one for forever. Since most users forget to do that, they never really set a default browser for most things.
But forgetting to set a default browser at this stage complicates the process of choosing the default browser later. Other browsers, such as Google Chrome, Opera, Mozilla Firefox, and Vivaldi, would keep pestering you with the notification on the top, asking you to set them as the default browser. When you click on the notification, you will reach the respective section in Windows Settings where you can change default apps. All of this is pretty standard, but what follows is a nightmare for people who want to use Windows conveniently.
In the Windows Settings, users will now see a long list of types because that is how Microsoft wants them to select their default browser. Instead of just a single type for web browsing and options for different web browsers installed on your PC, Microsoft’s Windows 11 would ask users to set default browsers according to a file type or a link. So, to set Google Chrome as the default browser, you will have to choose Chrome for each file type, such as HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS.
As tedious as it sounds, the process is unnecessary as well. Windows 10 just needs users to change their default browser by clicking on the web browser type in the settings, even though it prompts you to keep using Microsoft Edge as the default one before you confirm your new choice. That is okay, given Microsoft wants to push the adoption of the Edge browser over others, but complicating the entire process of choosing the default browser is going to discourage users, purely because of the unnecessary steps involved.
Web browser companies are, obviously, not happy with the new change in Windows. Firefox’s senior vice president, Selena Deckelmann, told The Verge, “We have been increasingly worried about the trend on Windows.” Not just Firefox, Vivaldi and Opera have also termed the change in Windows 11 “unfortunate” and “progressively worse”. The most popular internet browser, Google Chrome, is also likely to be impacted and that is why Google has spoken up about this new Windows 11 setting.
Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president at Google and head of Chrome, Chrome OS, and Android, tweeted: “This from the company that claims to be the most open, with “the most choice.” I hope this is just a developer preview thing, and the shipping version of Windows 11 lives up to their claims. This is far from “choice.”” The attack on Microsoft is for very obvious reasons, but Microsoft has not responded yet.
The new change is in Windows 11’s beta version, so critics and competitors are still hopeful the final build of Windows 11 will be rid of such a complicated and discouraging method of choosing the default browser. And even though that does come true, Microsoft has other ways of forcing the Microsoft Edge browser onto users, such as not giving a choice for browser when accessing news from the taskbar widget.