Microsoft Ends Mandatory Edge Use in EU for Windows 11

Microsoft will stop forcing the use of its Edge web browser on European Windows 11 users. The company will soon allow Windows 11 users in the EU to open all links using their browser again Web by default, rather than requiring the use of Edge. While this change may seem innocuous to some, Microsoft’s choice to move Edge ahead of the default web browser has been irritating Windows 11 users for some time now, especially system administrators. The change also extends to Windows 11 users in countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

General dissatisfaction with the choice of default browser on Windows is not new. Microsoft quietly began pushing back against third-party browsers with the release of Windows 10, where it made it more difficult to set a new default browser by hiding it behind several steps. Experts believe that this measure does not respect the choice of our browser and were concerned at the time about changes that Microsoft could make in the future. With the release of Windows 11, Microsoft started preventing third-party browsers from intercepting web links and forcing them to open in its Edge browser.

Whenever you search for something on the web through the Start menu search box or select the results in your widgets, the operating system will link Edge. However, according to experts, there is nothing special about these links. So there’s no reason for Microsoft to force users to use Edge to open them. Microsoft explained last year that the change was made to protect the “end-to-end customer experience,” but many experts say this is another way for the company to dictate to customers. users how they are expected to use their computer.

Roughly two years after the release of Windows 11, this change continues to irritate many users, is considered anti-competitive and would violate the laws of several countries. But the ordeal will soon be over for Windows users residing in European Economic Area (EEA) countries. Microsoft has said it will stop forcing Windows 11 users in this region to switch to Edge if they click a link from the Windows Widgets panel or search results. The software giant has started testing changes to Windows 11 in recent test builds of the operating system.

“In the European Economic Area (EEA), Windows system components use the default browser to open links,” reads a change note for a test build of Windows 11 published last month at intended for Dev channel testers. Microsoft declined to comment on this change, as well as why it is limited to around 30 countries. Remember that the European Economic Area (EEA) today includes the 27 countries of the European Union and three of the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), notably Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Previously, Windows 10 users could use third-party apps like EdgeDeflector to bypass Microsoft’s browser restrictions and open Start Menu search results in their default browser. Microsoft ended this workaround almost two years ago, around the same time as the release of Windows 11. Microsoft quietly announced the latest changes to Windows 11 days before announcing that it would begin unbundling Teams from its Microsoft 365 and Office 365 productivity suites in EU markets in October.

Forcing consumers to use a specific browser may seem like a stupid concern, but in a world where big tech companies are constantly vying for market dominance, the slope gets slippery very quickly. Last June, the American web traffic analysis company StatCounter published statistics showing that Google Chrome remains at the top of the ranking with more than 66% of market share. Safari overtook Edge in April and managed to increase its user community, increasing its market share from almost 12% to 13%. Edge, meanwhile, went from 10% to 9.91%.

Microsoft also appears to be navigating troubled waters when it comes to Teams. Analysts say Microsoft’s changes to Teams are intended to avoid further antitrust scrutiny, after the European Commission in July opened a formal antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s bundling of Teams with the Office productivity suite. The EU investigation was triggered by a complaint from rival Slack, which alleged that the Redmond firm had illegally tied its Microsoft Teams product to Office and forcibly installed it for millions of people, blocking its removal and hides the real cost for corporate clients.

It’s unclear whether the changes to Windows 11 are related to this EU investigation or whether Microsoft has faced further complaints from rivals about the behavior of its default apps in Windows. However, it is difficult to imagine that Microsoft is making these changes to Windows 11 specifically in EU countries simply by choice. They are probably linked to the European Digital Markets Act (DMA) which will come into force in March 2024. Platforms like Windows will have to respect a series of rules regarding interoperability and competition.

In particular, large companies such as Microsoft must allow users to easily uninstall pre-installed applications or change the default settings of operating systems, virtual assistants or web browsers that direct them to the products and services of the guardian and provide choice screens for key services. The DMA also introduces other very restrictive rules for businesses.

In short, Microsoft initially made it difficult to change the default browser in Windows 11, which sparked complaints from its competitors, before the company reversed course. However, she must explain the reasons for this change of heart. While the news was welcomed by European users, Windows users in other countries are even more frustrated, as this change will not be widespread.

This article is originally published on microsoft.developpez.com

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