Microsoft is set to halt its practice of forcing Windows 11 users in Europe to use Edge when clicking links via Windows Widgets panel or search results. The change, being tested currently in new builds of the operating system, will only be applicable to countries within the European Economic Area (EEA).
A change note from a test build of Windows 11 released recently states, “In the EEA, Windows system components use the default browser to open links.” Microsoft, however, has not clarified why the change is applying only to EU nations.
In the past, Microsoft has overlooked default browser choices via its search experience in Windows 10, and a taskbar widget that compelled users to use Edge other than their default browser. This trend continued with Windows 11 with search and Windows Widgets still disregarding the default browser setting.
With these changes in place, both search and Windows Widgets, which are system-level components, will soon start using the default browser to open links specifically in EU countries. This comes after the discontinuation of the workaround like EdgeDeflector app that allowed users to bypass Microsoft's browser restrictions.
This move from Microsoft may be seen as a response to the antitrust scrutiny it has been facing recently after the European Commission initiated a formal antitrust investigation regarding Microsoft's bundling of its Teams software with the Office productivity suite. The investigation began after a complaint from Slack that alleged Microsoft of “illegally tying” its product Teams to Office package.
It's not evident if the environment in Windows 11 is directly linked to this EU investigation or if it is due to further complaints from rivals about the conduct of its default apps. Microsoft initially made it hard for users to switch default browsers in Windows 11, later ceasing the act after numerous complaints.
It's plausible that these changes in Windows 11 by Microsoft in EU nations are due to the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which will be effective from March 2024. According to the act, platforms like Windows will have to be interoperable and uphold competition rules, including enabling users “to easily uninstall pre-installed apps or change default settings.”
The implications of these changes on Windows 11 go beyond mere usability. They signify a major shift in Microsoft’s policy possibly due to regulatory pressures, underpinning the importance of user choice and competition in the digital marketplace. If these rules are applied universally, this could reshape the internet experience for everyone, adding more flexibility and personalisation options for users across the globe.
Microsoft has decided to stop forcing Windows 11 users in Europe to use its Edge browser when clicking on a link from the Windows Widgets panel or search results. This change, presently under testing in recent builds of Windows 11, will be applicable only to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). Prior to this,
Windows system components ignored the user's default browser choice, forcing links to open in Microsoft Edge instead. Microsoft's refusal to comment about this change, particularly its EU-specific nature, has raised questions. The change comes in light of recent EU antitrust investigations regarding Microsoft's package deal of its Teams software with the Office productivity suite.
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