Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Windows 11 Blocks Edge Browser Competitors From Opening Links

Daniel Aleksandersen, developer of EdgeDeflector which opens microsoft-edge:// links as standard https:// links:

This brings us back to today. Windows 10 and 11 no longer care about the default web browser setting. Microsoft even removed the default web browser setting from Windows 11. Instead of a single setting for the default web browser, customers must set individual “link associations” for the http:// and https:// protocols; as well as file associations for the .html file type. This is a huge jump in complexity compared to the previous design. It’s clearly a user-hostile move that sees Windows compromise its own product usability in order to make it more difficult to use competing products.

According to a guide by Barbara Krasnoff, of the Verge, all file extensions that you might associate with a web browser — .htm, .html, .shtml — have individual default preferences. Presumably, this is for all of the exactly three people who wish to open each file format in a different web browser by default and not because Microsoft, the world’s most valuable publicly-traded company, cannot shake its anti-competitive habits.

Furthermore, Microsoft has added first-party experiences like News and Interest in Windows 10 and Widgets in Windows 11. It gave the features prominent positions on the taskbar. These “web experiences”, as Microsoft calls them, feature links to online news, weather, and other resources. Search result links in the Start menu and links sent to the device from a paired Samsung or Android devices are also affected.

However, these features don’t use regular web links (https://). Instead, they use microsoft-edge:// links that only work with the company’s web browser. These links are also featured in other Microsoft apps and are found around the Windows shell. These special links only exist to force users into using Microsoft Edge. They serve no other purpose than to circumvent the user’s default browser preference to promote a Microsoft product.

In the latest build of Windows 11, Microsoft has blocked the methods used by EdgeDeflector and web browsers like Firefox. It is almost admirable how transparently anti-competitive Microsoft is being because, despite being the world’s most valuable company, it faces little scrutiny from regulators. Sucks for the users, but who gives a damn about them?

Update: On November 15, Microsoft confirmed to the Verge that this was a deliberate change to block utilities like EdgeDeflector.