Microsoft has become even more aggressive in its efforts to prevent users from using their preferred browser on Windows 11, blocking a small developer’s jobs tool that served as a workaround to enable browser choice.
EdgeDeflector is blocked by Microsoft’s jobs Windows 11 Insider preview build 22494, which was released last week, according to the app’s developer, Daniel Aleksandersen. The small app redirects Windows 11’s built-in “Microsoft edge:/” links to a generic “https://” link instead.
This is significant in Windows 11. As our Windows 11 review shows, Microsoft Jobs has made changes to its default app settings that require users to change browsers on a file-by-file basis. In other words, whereas Windows 10 allows users to set a default browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, for doing everything related to “browsing the web,” Windows 11 requires users to select a browser for each file type:.DF,.HTML,.TML,.EBP, and so on. It’s possible, but it’ll be a pain.
However, in Windows 11, there is another file type, the “Microsoft edge:/” link. Microsoft uses these links for web-connected parts of Windows 11, such as the Search icon in the Taskbar or the search box at the top of the Widgets panel. In this case, the search requests are parsed as “Microsoft edge:/” requests and are handled by the Microsoft Edge browser.
EdgeDeflector simply redirected those requests to the user’s preferred browser, whether it was Firefox, Chrome, or another. Edge, and only Edge, will now handle these requests with the new preview build.
“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 wrote in a blog post late last week. Any attempts to work around Microsoft’s decision would require making “destructive changes to Windows,” decisions that he said he refused to make.
Microsoft confirmed its decision to The Verge in a statement, telling the publication that the change in browser behavior was a “fix” that would eventually be rolled out to the stable version of Windows 11. Microsoft representatives later provided a similar statement to PCWorld.
“Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers,” the statement reads. “At the same time, Windows also offers certain end-to-end customer experience jobs in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, the search experience from the taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected. When we become aware of improper redirection, we issue a fix.”
Aleksandersen, for his part, chose to recall the 1999 decision to break up Microsoft, as well as the appeals court ruling that overturned the decision, in addition to Microsoft’s agreement to provide customers in the European Union with a “browser ballot” to provide more browser choice. This came as a result of Opera Software’s complaint that Microsoft was stifling competition by tying Internet Explorer to Windows. The EU then fined Microsoft $732 million after Microsoft claimed that a “technical error” had prevented customers from seeing the ballot for 14 months.
We’ve asked Microsoft for more information, specifically what “end-to-end” experiences in Windows 11 would be enhanced by using Edge rather than a third-party browser. We’d also like to know why Edge allows the use of third-party search engines like Google while actively attempting to prevent the use of third-party browsers. Microsoft has yet to respond to those questions, instead of issuing the statement quoted above.