Microsoft looks ready to make changing browsers on Windows 11 easier

Microsoft quietly added an option to more easily select a browser other than Edge to Windows 11 in the latest test build of the operating system. Yay for user feedback.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft has been doing its best to force Windows 11 users to stick with its own Edge browser by making switching from it as difficult as possible. But there's hope the company may do the right thing and stop this nonsense.

The latest Windows 11 Dev Channel test build released earlier this week, Build 22509, has a new browser Set default button, as discovered by Microsoft watcher Rafael Rivera. If and when this new button makes it into the commercially available Windows 11 release, users will again have a cleaner and simpler way to select a browser other than Edge. 

Earlier this year, Microsoft changed the way that users could set their default browsers by adding several new steps requiring them to set a bunch of settings manually to switch away from Edge. Last month, the company took another step by locking the Edge-specific protocol that enabled users to redirect programs to other Web browsers by blocking tools like Edge Deflector and Search Deflector which made selecting a browser other than Edge a more straightforward process. 

Officials have claimed that Windows 11 "openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers," in the words of a spokesperson. Despite that statement, some components of Windows 11, such as Widgets, don't allow users to select anything but Edge and Microsoft's Bing search engine.

I've asked Microsoft whether and when the company intends to make this new select browser button part of Windows 11 and when. No word back so far. A Windows officials confirmed to The Verge that Microsoft is, indeed, testing the default browser button which will streamline the way apps that register for HTTP; HTTPS; HTM, and HTML can set a default browser.

Update: Microsoft has given me the same statement, attributed to the same exec. And a spokesperson said the company declined to talk about possible timing for this change. The statement from Aaron Woodman, VP Windows Marketing:

"In the Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22509 released to the Dev Channel on Wednesday, we streamlined the ability for a Windows Insider to set the 'default browser' to apps that register for http:, https:, .htm, and .html. Through the Windows Insider Program you will continue to see us try new things based on customer feedback and testing."

Microsoft has moved to a new servicing model via which it will only be releasing one feature update per year to Windows 10 and 11 in the latter half of each year. But the wording in recent blog posts for Insiders indicates that Microsoft is planning to release some new features for Windows 11 outside of this feature update, so hopefully, this change will come sooner rather than later.

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