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  • Post published:13/11/2021
  • Post last modified:13/11/2021

The creator of EdgeDeflector said this week that the latest Insider build of Windows 11 now blocks all default browser workarounds. If this functionality makes its way to the finished product, it will mark a new, dark chapter for Microsoft, which told the media at the Windows 11 launch that it was aware that it had made changing app defaults pointlessly difficult, but that it had not done so maliciously and would fix it. This is the opposite of that claim.

“Something changed between Windows 11 builds 22483 and 22494 (both Windows Insider Preview builds),” EdgeDeflector creator Daniel Aleksandersen writes in a new blog entry. “The build changelog … omitted the headline news: you can no longer bypass Microsoft Edge using apps like EdgeDeflector.”

Microsoft not communicating effectively? I find that hard to believe. Cough. But Microsoft moving to make Windows 11 behave even more maliciously towards its users and browser rivals? That I have a hard time with.

Basically, EdgeDeflector, as well as third-party browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Brave, intercept OS-level URL requests that force you to use Microsoft Edge even when you have gone through the incredibly ponderous steps to make a non-Edge browser the default in Windows 11. But in the latest Insider Preview build, Microsoft is changing how these URL requests work. And it’s no longer possible to intercept URL requests that force users to use Edge instead of their default browser. (In the Insider builds. This functionality will come to mainstream users in the coming months unless we can change Microsoft’s collective mind.)

“You can’t change the default protocol association through registry changes, OEM partner customizations, modifications to the Microsoft Edge package, interference with OpenWith.exe, or any other hackish workarounds,” Aleksandersen explains. “Microsoft … just silently ignores the UserChoice registry keys for the protocol in the registry and opens Microsoft Edge instead.”

It’s even worse than that, really, he continues. “Windows will insist you use Microsoft Edge to a fault even if you brutalize your Windows installation and purge all traces of Microsoft Edge. Windows will open an empty UWP window and show an error message instead of letting you use your preferred web browser.”

Wonderful. So user-centric. So competition friendly. So … Microsoft.

Actually, Aleksandersen says it even better.

“These aren’t the actions of an attentive company that cares about its product anymore. Microsoft isn’t a good steward of the Windows operating system. They’re prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users’ productivity.”

Exactly.

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