It seems Microsoft is intentionally making it harder to switch default browsers. At a time when the company is bringing many positive changes to the Windows 11 UI, the default apps experience is a step back. With Windows 11, Microsoft has changed the way you set default apps. Like Windows 10, a prompt appears as soon as you install a new browser and open a web link for the first time. However, it should be noted that now, it is perhaps the only opportunity to easily switch browsers. Unless you tick “always use this app” the default will never be changed.
For us, there is a high probability that we users will forget to toggle the “always use this app” option. If we forget to set our default browser at first launch, the experience for switching defaults is now confusing than Windows 10. In Windows 10, Google Chrome or other browsers often prompt users to set them as default and takes users to default app settings to enable this. This is now changed with Windows 11.
Now, you have to set defaults by file or link type instead of a single switch. For example, for Chrome, this means changing the default file type for HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. The process is long.
Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president of Firefox said “We have been increasingly worried about the trend on Windows. Since Windows 10, users have had to take additional and unnecessary steps to set and retain their default browser settings. These barriers are confusing at best and seem designed to undermine a user’s choice for a non-Microsoft browser.”
Mozilla is not the only one who is concerned. A Vivaldi spokesperson said “Microsoft has a history of doing this, and it seems they are getting progressively worse. With every new version of Windows, it is getting harder [to change defaults]. They understand that the only way they can get people to use their browsers is to lock them in.”
Opera is also not impressed with this change. Krystian Kolondra, Opera’s head of browsers said “It’s very unfortunate when a platform vendor is obscuring a common use case to improve the standing of their own product. 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 backward.”
A Brave spokesperson said “It appears that Windows 11 widgets will ignore a user’s default browser choice and open Microsoft Edge for the content instead. Brave puts users first and we condemn this Windows 11 approach because the choice of a default browser has many implications for individuals and their privacy. Users should be free to choose.”
On contrary, Microsoft is justifying these changes. A Microsoft spokesperson said “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. As evidenced by this change, we’re constantly listening and learning, and welcome customer feedback that helps shape Windows. Windows 11 will continue to evolve over time; if we learn from a user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.”
It should be noted that it is not long until Windows 11 ships and as of now, it seems, Microsoft’s competitors are not really happy with these changes. Most of the rivals are pointing out that Microsoft is shrinking the liberty of users to change browsers with every update and forcing its own browser Microsoft Edge onto users. In simple words, the rivals are pointing out that Microsoft is trying to reduce competition artificially with every operating system upgrade.