Microsoft could make Edge default browser for opening links

People might no longer be able to use workarounds like EdgeDeflector to set another browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, as their default for opening links.

Microsoft could block browsers other than Edge from opening links on Windows 11. The company said the move bolsters security, but opponents accused Microsoft of restricting people's use of competing browsers.

In a blog post this week, Microsoft said web links, such as those found in emails, could redirect people to an unwanted website. To prevent that, Microsoft made Edge the default browser for links in Windows 11 Build 22000.346. The build is for people in Microsoft's beta program and, depending on customer feedback, may or may not become a part of Windows 11.

Microsoft's changes would make it impossible to use workaround apps like EdgeDeflector to bypass Edge and use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to open links.

EdgeDeflector creator Daniel Alexandersen said he doesn't have a problem with Microsoft promoting its products and services through Edge. However, making it the default browser goes too far.

"I only object to Windows not respecting the default browser setting when the user has chosen to use a competing web browser," Alexandersen said.

Google declined to comment. A Mozilla spokesperson said people deserve a choice of the default browser.

"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," the spokesperson said. "Following the recent change to Windows 11, this planned implementation will no longer be possible."

Nevertheless, Microsoft argues that using Edge ensures its Windows 11 security services operate correctly, said Michael Cherry, a senior analyst at Directions on Microsoft. 

Microsoft Edge browser tab
Microsoft is weighing makes it challenging to opt for a browser other than Edge on Windows 11.

"For example, they may be able to ensure that Edge opens in a secure environment and is isolated such that malware cannot move from the browser to affect key components of the OS," Cherry said.

Microsoft built the current iteration of Edge on the Google Chromium engine, an open source browser project by Google. Microsoft released the Chromium-based Edge in early 2020.

The latest move isn't the first time Microsoft has steered people toward using Edge as the default browser. When it released Windows 11, Microsoft removed the simple default browser settings available on Windows 10.

Before, a person could change the default browser with a single click in Settings > Apps > Default Apps. Today, a person must change the default browser for every link type, such as HTTP or HTML, in that same settings menu.

Edge accounted for 6% of the global browser usage in September, according to Statista. Firefox, which has been bleeding users for some time, has about 3.5% of the market. Chrome and Safari lead with 50.5% and 35%, respectively.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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