Microsoft has taken aggressive steps to drive users towards its web browser Edge as it looks to close the gap on established rivals.
Last month, we reported that members of the Windows 11 early-access program were finding the operating system would no longer allow links with a custom Microsoft Edge URI scheme to open in any other browser.
As part of the last round of Patch Tuesday updates of 2021, it appears Microsoft has quietly extended this policy to all Windows 10 and Windows 11 installations.
Although the firm has not gone as far as to force all web links to launch in Edge (only those housed within its own services, like the Start menu), the move is unlikely to prove popular with Windows users, the majority of whom use a third-party browser as their daily driver.
Microsoft Edge backlash
Until now, Windows users have been able to rely on a free service called EdgeDeflector to counteract the Edge URI scheme, and rival browsers Firefox and Brave feature similar in-built workarounds. However, following the latest update, none of these solutions remain viable.
When hints of a crackdown first emerged, the creator of EdgeDeflector was openly critical of Microsoft, which he believes has strayed the wrong side of antitrust law.
“These aren’t the actions of an attentive company that cares about its products any more,” he wrote in a blog post. “Microsoft isn’t a good steward of the Windows operating system. [It’s] prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their own productivity.”
“For users, the best action is to complain to their local antitrust regulator or switch to Linux. 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’.”
Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, also voiced its concerns about the forcefulness with which Microsoft is pushing its service on Windows users.
“People deserve choice. They should have the ability to and easily set defaults, and their choice of default browser should be respected,” said a Mozilla spokesperson.
“We have worked on code that launches Firefox when the microsoft-edge protocol is used for those users that have already chosen Firefox as their default browser. Following the recent change to Windows 11, this planned implementation will no longer be possible.”
However, as reported by ghacks, there remains one viable workaround in the form of an open source tool called MSEdgeRedirect, which gets around the Edge URI scheme in a different fashion to EdgeDeflector and Firefox.
It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will move to block this bypass as well.