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News hardware & software 19 August 2021, 14:11

author: Arkadiusz Strzala

Windows 11 Will Make it Harder to Change Your Default Browser

Changing the default web browser in Windows 11 can be much more difficult than in previous versions of the system. Is Microsoft using this to push the use of Edge?

  • Changing the default browser in Windows 11 will require us to do some clicking;
  • Some elements of Windows 11's interface will ignore the defaults, such as widgets and the search bar.

Windows 11 will have many changes and improvements. However, there's one thing you're unlikely to like. And that "you" includes users of the system, as well as creators of browsers like Firefox, Opera and Chrome. Changing the default browser in Microsoft's new system can be much more difficult than in Windows 10 if we are not cautious.

Windows 11 Will Make it Harder to Change Your Default Browser - picture #1
In Windows 11, it's better not to underestimate this option. Source: TheVerge

This will happen if you miss the little checkbox at the bottom of the prompt. And such a query will appear only once when the system encounters a new type of file or service. Without checking "Always use this application" the selection will not be remembered. If we do, we will forced to edit the default applications in Windows. And here we will encounter a very unpleasant surprise. Instead of a clear list of content types known from Windows 10, where the choice of browser is limited to changing one option "Web browser", Windows 11 users are in for a clicking game. This is well illustrated by a post on Twitter by Tom Warren from TheVerge:

When changing the default browser, we have to change the default application in each file or service type separately. So if we want to change Edge to Chrome permanently, we have to edit the settings for HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. Very intuitive, isn't it? Something tells me that "homemade IT pros" are going to come back into favor. The manufacturers of other browsers have already spoken unfavorably on the tendency:

“We have been increasingly worried about the trend on Windows,” said Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president of Firefox.

“It’s very unfortunate when a platform vendor is obscurifying a common use case to improve the standing of their own product,” says Krystian Kolondra, head of browsers at Opera.

The last quote might suggest Microsoft's desire to push the use of its own browser using this trick. Leaving aside the quality of Edge itself, because it is not a bad browser (I use it myself), such actions are at least strange. How is an average computer user supposed to know what SVG or WEBP is? Krystian Kolondra adds:

“We would like to encourage all platform vendors to respect user choice and allow competition on their platforms. Taking away user choice is a step backwards.”

Microsoft justifies these changes as enabling users to excert more control over their default apps:

“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."

Could someone actually want the settings to look like this? I don't know if I remember correctly, but assigning a default application to a file extension was last seen in Windows 98. This may indeed be a step backwards as Krystian Kolondra points out.

Difficulty changing browsers is not the only problem of this type in Windows 11. Windows 10 already ignores the default settings in some places, for example, using the search bar always opens Edge and Bing. This is expected to be retained in Windows 11, and in addition widgets will behave similarly, as they will open Microsoft Edge for their content.

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