Microsoft has been adding new ways in Windows 11 to try to get more users to go with its Edge browser. Earlier this year, it changed the way users could set their default browsers, adding a bunch of new steps that required them to switch a number of settings manually in order to switch away from Edge. Last week, the company took another step by locking the Edge-specific protocol that enabled users to redirect programs to other Web browsers.
If you want a thorough explanation of what changed regarding the Edge protocol, I'd recommend this post from ghacks.net. In short, Microsoft blocked tools like Edge Deflector and Search Deflector, which were designed to make selecting a browser other than Edge more of a straightforward process.
Microsoft didn't do this by accident, and officials made it clear they aren't considering relenting on this. In last week's Windows 11 Dev Channel test build notes, there's a line that acknowledges its latest move. It simply says: "We fixed an issue where OS functionality could be improperly redirected when microsoft-edge: links are invoked."
I asked for a statement about whether the company intends to try to make switching to a browser other than Edge as difficult as possible with Windows 11. Please keep in mind; I am just the messenger here. A spokesperson sent the following:
"Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers. 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."
As I and other Microsoft watchers have noted, Microsoft wants to grow not just its browser share but also its mindshare and market share for Bing and MSN News (known these days as "Microsoft Start." Browsers are the most-used applications in Windows (and all other operating systems, I'd think). Getting users to sign in helps Microsoft try to push Bing, other Microsoft services, including its universal Microsoft search service and, ultimately, its own ad platform.
I, myself, like Microsoft Edge. But I'm not liking the way Microsoft is trying to give Edge more of an edge over the competition. (And I'm definitely not liking the prompts I regularly get in Windows 11 asking me to change my default search engine to Bing inside of Edge.) C'mon Microsoft. I thought your Evil Empire days were over...