Mozilla criticises Microsoft for making it hard to change default browser in Windows 10

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Microsoft has changed Windows 10 so that users must explicitly set a default app for applications such as mail, calendar and web browsers. This means that the installers for Chrome and Firefox can’t set themselves as the default when installed. Mozilla is understandably not happy with the change and has asked Microsoft to reverse its “aggressive move to override user choice on Windows 10”.

Mozilla has a go at Microsoft

In a blog post and open letter to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, the head of Mozilla, Chris Bears, expresses the company’s concerns.

“It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows”, says Beard. “It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost”.

Mozilla has also created a video to show the amount of clicks required to set Firefox as the default. Personally speaking however, it’s pretty hard to see what all the fuss is about…

When an app such as Firefox wants to become the default, it’s still able to show a popup when it’s launched for the first time, but now takes users to a special Windows 10 settings page to choose the default app. Mozilla says this is more complex as there are more steps to change the browser and may cause confusion with some customers. It’s not though clear why Microsoft changed the behaviour in Windows 10, but did say that it reduces some of the unwanted noise that multiple prompts bring.

It’s probably a good idea however in terms of security so that apps can’t hijack default settings, but also perhaps an underhand way to ensure that the new Edge browser remains the default.

Mozilla says it reached out to Microsoft to discuss concerns but didn’t reach any progress, so Beard was forced to write an open letter. There were similar worries back in 2012 with Windows RT on tablets: “We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience”, said Beard. “Please give your users the choice and control they deserve in Windows 10”.

Microsoft has reportedly responded as follows:

“We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade. During the upgrade, consumers have the choice to set defaults, including for web browsing. Following the upgrade, they can easily choose the default browser of their choice. As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so”.

SOURCE: Mozilla.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeff Newman on

    My experience with changing the default browser, which I quickly did, was that when you attempt it, you are presented with instructions on where to go (Settings) in order to make the change but you are not taken to the Settings app or the app defaults page within. It does take a reasonable amount of Windows familiarity to make the change. On the other hand, someone advanced enough to have a browser preference presumably wouldn’t have an extraordinarily difficult time making the change.