You may have read one of the numerous reports across tech sites explaining how Microsoft has made the chore of setting a different browser (other than Edge) as the default browser in Windows 11 a lot more difficult. Setting any browser other than Edge as default in Windows 11 is no longer a simple process with each and every relevant file association needing to be set manually by the user. For anyone who is tech-savvy, it isn’t difficult but definitely convoluted, and for everyday mum and dad users, well I doubt too many would even know where to start.
How To Change The Default Browser In Windows 11
Navigate to Settings > Apps > Default apps and scroll down until you see the name of your preferred browser. Click on the name of the browser and a list of file associations will open. Click the icon at the far right of each item and proceed from there — I didn’t complete the process because I’m happy with Edge anyway but there were 13 file associations that required changing:
Even then not everything will open in your chosen browser — links in locally installed apps, for example, will still open in Edge. Furthermore, the EdgeDeflector extension and similar extensions that have been specifically designed to redirect links from Edge to the default browser have now been blocked by Microsoft.
Bottom line — Microsoft is intent on making it as difficult as humanly possible for users to select a different browser than Edge as 100% default.
Internet Explorer vs Netscape
Those of a certain age would remember the original browser war between Internet Explorer and Netscape. Netscape had dominated the browser market for quite some time until Microsoft decided to integrate its browser into Windows (circa 1996-1997). That move by Microsoft marked the beginning of the end for Netscape. Eventually, the DOJ charged that Microsoft was in contravention of anti-competitive laws (anti-trust) as the company was gaining an unfair advantage by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Microsoft was judged guilty as charged but the decision was a hollow victory for Netscape as by then its market share had been decimated to the point of no return.
So, considering a legal precedent has been set, it begs the question… will someone take legal action against Microsoft for this latest anti-competitive behavior? I don’t think so. Microsoft’s wealth and influence have increased massively since those days and I doubt Mozilla or any of the Chromium-based browser developers would have the resources and/or perhaps the courage to take on the Redmond giant. Google, of course, is the exception but, considering Google’s history of anti-competitive behavior, I seriously doubt they’d want to open that can of worms.
A Deliberate Act By Microsoft?
Of course it’s deliberate. One would have to be naïve to think otherwise. Internet Explorer once ruled the browser world and I believe Microsoft is intent on achieving a similar result with Edge, plus it would be a particularly sweet victory for Microsoft to dethrone Google’s Chrome browser.
Windows 11 Debacle
Windows 11 has been a debacle from the beginning:
- Ridiculous requirements that exclude millions of users, including those owning relatively new machines that are perfectly capable of running Windows 11
- Confusing everyone by introducing a previously unheard of mandatory requirement (TPM)
- Decisions that see the deprecation of features and options — e.g., a Taskbar fixed at the bottom of the screen and arguably the worst Start menu ever
- Making the process of setting third-party applications as default — including browsers — a lot more difficult
Here’s the thing — Windows is so dominant in the marketplace with very little in the way of viable competition that users are forced to pretty much accept whatever Microsoft throws at them — and Microsoft knows it. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that Microsoft is not alone with its anti-competitive behavior — both Apple and Google have been at it for years.
Of course, just because others are participating in anti-competitive behavior doesn’t make it right but it does set a trend of unacceptable practices that makes it difficult to single out any one culprit.