back to article Microsoft backtracks on lack of easy Windows browser choice

The latest set of optional cumulative updates for Windows 11 contains an unlisted addition that users have been clamoring for: a one-click default browser change.  The update follows discovery of the addition in testing builds released in December, 2021, and indicates Microsoft has gone back on its idea that granular control …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Yet another reason

    That I am avoiding Win11 on my Win10 kit. Someday I'll probably have to upgrade but I'm not looking forward to it.

    1. ShadowSystems

      Re: Yet another reason

      I got as far as "quality of life improvement" & started laughing so hard I had to breathe into a paper bag to prevent myself from hyperventilating.

      The QOL of everything out of MS since Win8 has been an utter FlusterCluck of *devolution* in action.

      UI that keeps changing every time some MS code wanker gets a figurative bug up their arse, settings going walkabout every time some manager decides to determine if things can get any worse, features being added/removed on a whim, and every forced update breaking something such that MS has to release a fix to fix the fix that broke the fix...

      Some of us require a stable OS that doesn't take a shite all over the place every time someone at MS has a "bright idea". The last stable OS out of MS was Win7, to which some will argue that it had it's issues, but nothing like the utter nuclear powered electromagnetic rail cannon nail gun full auto fire shots to the feet that MS has given us/themselves as Win8, 8.1, 10, & now 11.

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Yet another reason

        I had to logon just to upvote

        "utter nuclear powered electromagnetic rail cannon nail gun full auto fire shots to the feet that MS has given us/themselves"

    2. binary
      Happy

      There are *many* other, and better OS options

      With all the free, and better OS options available today, I no longer have to use Windows to do my work so I no longer have to waste energy complaining every time Microsoft regurgitates.

      1. The Real SteveP

        Re: There are *many* other, and better OS options

        ... and yet you still feel an obligation to comment, anyway!

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: There are *many* other, and better OS options

        I don't use Windows to do my work, I use apps. Principally MS Office, including Word, Excel, and OneNote. But not PowerPoint, an utter waste of space. On my "other computers" I use Libre Office, but LO does not have anything comparable to OneNote. I occasionally use Access, much better than the database software in LO.

        OneNote is superb for the first version of new documents, for which I am not always certain at the beginning how they will work out.

  2. ecofeco Silver badge

    Microsoft doesn't have...

    ...the most user friendly anything, ever.

    To be fair, neither does Apple.

    1. diguz

      Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

      well at least apple is - mostly - idiot proof... whereas windows makes simple tasks require an IT degree.

      1. mmonroe

        Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

        I've got an IT degree and I can't find my way around M$ operating systems.

      2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

        It is whatever you are used to (Can't stand OSX personally).

        As someone who didn't know dragging the cd rom to the bin was how you eject them on Mac OS9 (Until then I used Dos and Windows 9x/2000 so this concept which was normal on most 8/16bit micros was completly alien to me)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

          Or the floppy on older Macs. Apple's UI designers were surely smoking the top premium stuff when they thought up that bit of horror - especially after providing that obvious "Eject floppy" (and presumably an "Eject CD", where hardware-appropriate) menu option.

          1. ssokolow

            Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

            Yeah. I can easily imagine people being too scared that it would erase their files.

            Reminds me of how, as a kid on Windows 3.1, I never created new program launchers because I assumed that "New..." did something analogous to the Add/Remove Programs control panel on Windows 95, and all my programs had installation instructions that didn't mention it.

          2. VicMortimer Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

            It's only been the standard way to eject a disk since 1984, almost 40 years is plenty of time to figure out that dragging a disk to the trash ejects it and doesn't delete anything.

            And for over 20 years, the trash can has been changing to an eject icon when you start dragging a disk.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Microsoft doesn't have...

              Sure, if you use the broken mess every day and get used to it. Humans are depressingly good at that kind of adaptation.

              But ask someone new to the system to eject the floppy from a Mac, and without specific instruction "drag it to the Trash" is way, way, WAY down the list of appropriate actions most people would ever think of trying. "the trash can has been changing to an eject icon when you start dragging a disk" is hardly a clearly discoverable UI.

              Most especially when, as noted, *THEY PROVIDE AN EXPLICIT AND SPECIFIC MENU OPTION TO DO JUST THAT THING*. They've just doubled down on a crap UI design decision instead of reworking the clear and obvious menu item so that "Eject floppy" does what the manual pushbutton on PC floppy drives does, and "Swap floppy" provides whatever functionality someone apparently attached to "Eject floppy".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Customer Enhancement Programme

    This is our fault. Those of us who want the technical stuff in Windows opt out of the "track the hell out of everything I do" settings and it is left to the ID-10T users to show Microsoft how they use Windows.

    As they only get tracking results from dumb users, they design for the dumb users "based on customer feedback".

    1. joed

      Re: Customer Enhancement Programme

      3 incorrect assumptions. Neither majority of Windows users makes any changes to telemetry settings (sad but true) nor MS can be trusted to not siphon this data even when limited controls would appear to turn them off. 3rd - MS does not have good track record of responding to user feedback (e.g. they simply doubled down with BS features following W8 beta response). They tend to prefer damage control in face of failure (like following W8 with slightly less tabletty W10). It's not like their user-base had particular choice.

      1. Keith Langmead

        Re: Customer Enhancement Programme

        Absolutely true. Standard procedure seems to be :

        1) Roll out new "feature" that no one has asked for.

        2) Receive masses of negative feedback from the testing community reporting that it breaks stuff / doesn't work / is incompatible with existing and commonly used apps/hardware.

        3) Ignore the feedback through a few rounds of testing.

        4) Release the update (aka force it on everyone) with the "feature" unchanged.

        5) Receive even more negative feedback from normal users for the same reasons that were given by the testers.

        6) Pretend this is the first time they've been made aware of the issue and rush to create a fix.

        Rinse and repeat.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Customer Enhancement Programme

          "...and rush to create a fix bodge up a crap workaround that's just not-bad enough to reduce the screams of outrage to mild grumbling."

          FTFY.

    2. Shepard

      Re: Customer Enhancement Programme

      That's not really true -- we provide feedback in different ways. Some of us have support contracts with Microsoft and create tickets, some are sending feedback, some reporting bugs on GitHub. Then there are community forums and all the blogs and bad press -- Microsoft would have to be willfully blind and obtuse not to see all that.

      As for turning off data collection, maybe if it were opt-in instead of opt-out, and if it clearly stated why they need your data and how they intend to use it, maybe more of us would be willing to turn it on.

      Even if we did, I am not sure how would personal data collection or any sort of telemetry relay them the level of frustration we experience when we need to say change network adapter properties and have to slog through dozen of dialogs to get there.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For some values of "default"

    If it's anything like W10, you can set a default browser, but it's only the default for non-Microsoft apps. Everything in Windows still runs Edge.

    1. Paradroid

      Re: For some values of "default"

      Yes I'm sure they've kept that behaviour. And in my opinion it's a bug. Why should users have to waste resources firing up Edge for some links if they've chosen to use a different browser and already have it running. There's just no excuse.

      1. Shepard

        Re: For some values of "default"

        Oh but there is -- the excuse is them wanting to know what you clicked on, and they can't do that without launching Edge and sending the link to Bing in the background by default.

  5. John 104

    Easy Solution

    My easy solution on my recent laptop purchase was to nuke the 11 install and put 10 on it. Maybe by the time the stop supporting 10 they'll have 11 sorted....

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Easy Solution

      Wishful thinking.....

      They will have got bored by then and will be busy creating the next abomination that will be:

      More use friendly

      Intuitive

      Simple to use

      And probably have a bunch of crucial features that only work on subscription.....

      Translated that means another steaming pile of shite that is barely usable with a raft of insane default options that some sort of dyslexic psychopath thought were a good idea.

  6. Mayday Silver badge
    Gimp

    Please explain to me

    Disclosure: I don't use Windows. Don't care if you do, that's great. Pick your OS of choice.

    How is this different from other OSs having a default browser? For example, my daily system is a Mac, comes with Safari, but when I want to use another browser, which I do, I simply go to that browser's homepage, download and install then rarely use Safari again.

    Can't say I fancy the "Recent changes in Windows 11 made it impossible to open certain web address prefixes in any non-Edge browser" part at all though. This one deserves swift kicks in the balls.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Please explain to me

      I'll bite, because it's a fair question.

      Having a default browser is not the issue. Sure, you could have an OS that didn't include any browser at all (albeit, how would you download a browser... try talking your grandma through the process of SFTP :) ), or you could do a Windows 7-in-the-EU-like "please choose which of these competing browsers you want" splash on first boot, but in general, I don't think the fact that Edge is the default is what's riling people.

      What is doing so, is Microsoft's passive-aggressive attempts to bounce people back to using Edge whenever they try to migrate away from it. From dark-patterns, to wheedling "are you suuuuure you don't want to use Edge? It's Microsoft's Recommendation!" popups, to hijacking web search results to try and convince you to stay with Edge, to updates that sneakily reset your preferences every so often, to (as you mention) whole chunks of the OS that ignore your choice and use Edge anyway - it's sneaky, offputting, underhand, and frankly destroys any trust or goodwill that people might give Microsoft.

      Build a better browser and people - in an open marketplace - will naturally use it. The fact that Microsoft, and Google too let's be honest, feel the need to trick/coerce/bounce people into using their browser just makes me, for one, instinctively go elsewhere.

      Others can almost certainly phrase it better than I can, but that's the gist of it.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Please explain to me

        Most operating systems come with a package manager or app store, and you could use that to download a browser.

      2. BestTurtle

        Re: Please explain to me

        The sad truth is that people have some serious inertia when it comes to changing something like a browser.

        In the mid 2000s, there was an unbelievable gap between Opera and the mainstream browsers. Having seen Opera, you'd have to have been crazy not to switch at once. But not enough people did.

        So while Microsoft is doing awful things, sadly it might just not be true that people would switch on their own if Edge had rationally been there best choice.

        1. razzaDazza1234

          Re: Please explain to me

          Thought your kind had been wiped from these forums: The Opera Trumpet Blower returns.

          Opera was crap. It was ugly, unnecessarily quirky and worse still, the people that used it were the greatest bores.

          No way did Opera have an 'unbelievable' gap in the mid 2000's. Firefox thrashed it. Dont think we havent forgotten all you Opera muppets on these forums through the years. I called for an "auto-downvote" feature to be added for Opera posts to give you an idea of what a bunch a steaming Tommy Tankers they all are, and you too.

          I curse you to internet Hell; to 32k modem on win3 with a huge CRT and no glare screen for ever for your crimes against humanity.

          Burn!!!!

          1. Little Mouse

            Re: Please explain to me

            "to 32k modem on win3 with a huge CRT"

            You call that a curse? Those were my halcyon IT days. A time when Computers were a fun hobby, and I was optimistically looking forward to carving out a career working with them.

            It's all been downhill since then...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Please explain to me

              "It's all been downhill since then..."

              It gets better when you retire. At least then you only have your own problems - not those of other customer/company users. That's assuming you convince family and friends that you are "no longer up-to-date" on whatever they are trying to use.

              You will still be a "customer" of various essential life services who can inflict their IT problemssolutions on you. Like all the UK gas and electricity suppliers who have found their online account services crashing as everyone tries to place a marker of their current consumption before the big price hike backdates it to the new tariff.

            2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
              Alert

              Re: Please explain to me

              A time when Computers

              The reminds me/shudder at the thought of them...

              "Time Computers"

              Looks like there is some sort of a continuing presence of the brand - the browser is reporting an iffy certificate for the site - not at all surprised at that.

          2. Robert Grant

            Re: Please explain to me

            > the people that used it were the greatest bores

            Hoping this is parody of a person who doesn't know how to make good decisions.

    2. Dave K

      Re: Please explain to me

      The problem isn't so much in the launching of an alternative browser - many people are capable of clicking on a shortcut to Chrome, Firefox or whatever to open their browser of choice - even if it isn't set as the default browser, it's when you follow links from other programs.

      So, I have Firefox open on my system, then I click a link in a (trusted) PDF, Word document, e-mail, program or whatever. Instead of that link opening in my preferred and open browser (Firefox), Windows 11 fires up Edge because "it's the default". This is both unnecessary - because I now have two browsers open, and annoying.

      Previously of course, you simply set Firefox/Chrome/Vivaldi as the default browser and that'd fix the problem. Click the "help" link in a program and the help site opens in the correct browser as it should do. With Win 11, MS deliberately made changing the default browser unnecessarily difficult just to try and forcibly push everyone towards Edge at every opportunity. It's even worse of course for OS handles that now even ignore the default browser option and use Edge regardless.

      As some have said, the result for me personally is that I refuse to use Edge out of principle. Doesn't matter how good MS may make it, I deeply object to their forceful coercion.

      The solution is simple: I don't care if Edge is the default browser out of the box, but let me easily change the default browser as I want, don't periodically revert that setting, and respect that setting whenever I click anything which prompts the opening of a website.

      1. TCook1943

        Re: Please explain to me

        Personally I nuke Edge using Revo uninstaller. It USED to be a reasonable browser until Microshit changed it to add the worst features of Chrome since when it has become virtually unusable.

        BTW I actually sort of prefer 8.1.

    3. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Please explain to me

      Apple and Linux distros come with a default browser but installing other browsers and changing the default is very easy with both. The complaint is not there is a default browser (a necessity if you want to browse the web) but the OS lock in to the default browser.

    4. Shepard

      Re: Please explain to me

      Problem is a bit more complex than Edge being default or even being there to begin with.

      In the past, URL protocol handlers and file extensions were up for grabs in the Windows Registry. Many programs re-associated themselves to the files and protocols they support on startup leading to frustration as two or more image viewers, browsers, or media players kept hijacking the extensions and protocols from each other.

      Then Microsoft decided that user should have control and added a mechanism to prevent association changes not initiated by the user through, among other things, including a hash of the chosen program. So we went from programs overwriting each other registry keys to programs registering what they can handle and letting the user choose and once the choice was made it was locked.

      Little did we know that Microsoft left a way for themselves to take over those associations without user input. So it turns out that they didn't do that change to protect the users from badly written apps as much as they did it so they can do things other software developers cannot do.

      Add to that Edge tabs integration in Alt-Tab app switching in System settings (something no other browser can expect to do) and you hopefully understand that people are pissed that Microsoft is once again abusing their private interfaces in anpther product (Windows) to give an Edge (pun intended) to their other product, which is a textbook example of abusing dominance in one market (OS) to gain unfair advantage in another (browser search).

      And before you say "Google does similar shit", yes they do but most people aren't paying for Google services while everyone is paying for a Windows license.

  7. Plest Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Win11

    Put it off for ages, then upgraded as I'd just bought a new laptop to replace a 7 year old tower box. The only thing I utterly dislike about new Windows versions is this need to hide useful stuff 'cos average non-techie users keep lifting the covers and poking about in the stuff they don't understand and f**king their Windows installs. So now the rest of us who do know what they're doing have to dig through 17 layers of GUI to get to a useful dialogue OR throw up powershell and spend an hour wrangling with 17 command line options after 30 mins deciphering the official MS docs on the required cmdlet.

    Other than that I actually quite like Win11!

    1. Screepy

      Re: Win11

      Haha yes re powershell, and while you're typing up your script, MS are deprecating the cmdlet you need in the background.

      So you run it and are met with a sea of red.

      Back to the docs you go to find you need to download a new module cos the one you're using is soooo last 30 min ago.

      I'm exaggerating ofc but I wish their docs would keep up with the cmdlet/module changes. I've wasted hours of my life (in particular with exchange online) troubleshooting previously working PS scripts which break as MS change bits behind the scenes.

    2. X5-332960073452
      Happy

      Re: Win11

      Try installing 'explorer patcher' - https://github.com/valinet/ExplorerPatcher

  8. a_yank_lurker

    Ownership

    Since I own the hardware the OS resides on, it is a guest on my hardware. If you treat me wrong I have options. None of my personal computing requires Bloatware-as-a-Disservice. I can easily go fruity or with a penguin as both have all the necessary software I need.

  9. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Devil

    So what happened... they finally rolled out the beta of 11 to legal and someone in there started getting nervous?

    *cough* antitrust *cough*

  10. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Meh

    Quick Fix

    To do so, open the Settings app, navigate to Update & Security, then to Windows Update. Once there, look for the Optional Updates area and select KB5011563 (OS Build 22000.593).

    Once the update is installed, you'll find the default browser switch an easy one to make. Again in the Windows 11 Settings app, search for the Default Apps section. Look for the browser (or other app) of your choice and select it. On the app's screen you'll see a list of all the file extensions it can use, and a "Make X your default browser" button. Click that and you're on your way to a relatively Edge-free browsing experience.

    .

    This is what the normal user immediately thinks to do.

  11. steviebuk Silver badge

    Only because..

    ...they don't want

    United States v. Microsoft Corp.

    Happening again and they are heading that way with the browser move as what they've been doing in Windows 11 is exactly why United States v. Microsoft Corp. happened back in the day.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Only because..

      Yes. Short summary: "They Got Caught". Again. Unnecessarily long "pointing out the obvious" commentary follows. With snark added for pleasure.

      [possible conversation, somewhere in Redmond]

      "Hey let's make it more difficult to switch away from Edge. Then we can capture the entire browser functionality and put in more ads, more spying, and 'enhancements' that only our browser can do, to lock every into our browser as WELL as our operating system!"

      But when the newest generation of 'children trying to be software engineers' arrogantly said "It is OUR turn now" they lacked the experience that was learned in the mid 90's, in particular that anti-trust lawsuit that FORCED them to stop integrating Internet Explorer in a manner that makes it harder to use something ELSE. This started with Windows 3.0 (use of undocumented functions by Micros~1 aka 'insider knowledge' to keep their OWN applications from crashing and burning) to "Active Desktop" and everything that went with it. And do not forget the 'Media Player' issues (that may only be an EU thing though).

      But yeah, from the 2D FLATTY to the ad slinging, I have been convinced that Micros~1 is not being run by the engineers that made Windows 3.x, but instead by a bunch of CHILDREN that want to make everything "their way" (customers be DAMNED!).

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Linux

    Default OS Selection

    Microsoft's past will remind anyone that default browser selection was one of the core components of the antitrust lawsuits it faced.

    May be one day we'll be able to buy a computer, and when first switched on, it asks which OS you want installed - if you select Windows, it could install Windows, and provided you have already paid for Windows for that device, or during the registration process, you purchase a licence, then you are good to go. If you select the Linux option, then, the same sort of think - it just installs the distro you selected from the list.

    I think we'll get commercial scale Fusion Power before we see this happening

  13. Lee D Silver badge

    Nobody wants Edge.

    And as Edge is effectively Chrome nowadays, why do you care, Microsoft?

    Just take the damn order I gave you and stop trying to persuade me to use the one app that's pre-installed and which I automatically totally ignore and install an alternative IMMEDIATELY and SPECIFICALLY to replace it instead.

    Take the hint. It's my damn machine. And I don't want Edge.

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