Windows 11 makes setting your default browser more complicated

Does Windows 11 offer more granular browser controls, or is it a ploy to keep users on Microsoft Edge?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 11 release has won praise for its user interface revamp, but the preview has caused alarm among Windows fans because of how it complicates the process of selecting a default browser. 

Microsoft has long faced accusations from rivals like Vivaldi and Firefox-maker Mozilla over Windows 10 making Edge the default browser. Vivaldi in 2017 complained that Windows 10 upgrades made Edge the default even though users had previously selected another browser as the default.

But, as spotted by The Verge's Windows watcher, Tom Warren, Windows 11 in its current preview form makes it more complicated than it is in Windows 10 to change the way the default browser is assigned.

SEE: Windows 11 FAQ: Here's everything you need to know

As Warren observed, in Settings > Apps > Default Apps, Windows 11 requires users to set a default browser like Chrome by file or link type instead of choosing one default browser once for all file types. 

So, for Chrome, users need to select specifically whether the they want it for HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. 

Windows 11 does make it easier to choose which browser is the default for different file types -- but that extra choice could bamboozle many users. 

Windows 11 retains the once-off choice to make a browser other than Edge the default on all occasions -- but this option is only presented once after installing a new browser.

After that, when users try to change the default browser in Default Apps, Windows 11 presents a dialogue that says: "Before you switch, Try Microsoft Edge -- it's fast, secure, and built for Windows 11."

Hiroshi Lockheimer, who heads up Google Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, noted the irony of Microsoft's Default Apps settings.  

"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'," Lockheimer wrote. 

Chromium-based browsers Opera and Vivaldi were also critical of the way Microsoft is offering default browser choices in settings. 

SEE: This new phishing attack is 'sneakier than usual', Microsoft warns

Microsoft argues that Windows 11 gives users more control over how and where default browser choices are applied. 

ZDNet contacted Microsoft for further comment and received this statement from a spokesperson:

Windows 11 is designed to bring people closer to what they love through new seamless and connected experiences while maintaining choice and control. People can download apps of their choosing from the Microsoft Store or the web, including browsers. With Windows 11, we are implementing customer feedback to customize and control defaults at a more granular level, eliminating app categories and elevating all apps to the forefront of the defaults experience. As evidenced by this change, we're constantly listening and learning, and welcome customer feedback that helps shape Windows. Windows 11 will continue to evolve over time; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.   

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