Windows 11 brings an exciting UI refresh to the platform, with a centered taskbar, windows with rounded corners, and just an overall minimalist design that make this OS feel like it belongs in 2021. It’s not all good news, however. As it turns out, Microsoft has made it increasingly difficult to choose your own browser, aggressively placing Edge as the default choice. In short, it’s just messy.
What’s going on with browser choice in Windows 11?
When you open a link for the first time after downloading a third-party browser on Windows 11, you’ll see a pop-up asking how you want to open that link (i.e. which browser you would like to use). Since you also see a pop-up in Windows 10, you might think the process works exactly the same—you choose the browser you want, then click “OK.”
Unfortunately, there’s one major difference: Unless you remembered to click the easy-to-miss “Always use this app” option, every subsequent link will open in Microsoft Edge. You will never see this pop-up again, even if you attempt to exclusively use a third-party browser. So what gives?
Microsoft isn’t completely anti-competition, as there’s still a way to set, say, Google Chrome as your default web browser…but it’s not easy. There should be a simple option to say “Windows, please always open my stuff in Google Chrome,” but instead, in this example you would need to set Chrome as your default for each individual file type, such as HTM, HTML, PDF, SHTML, SVG, WEBP, XHT, XHTML, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS.
That’s how things are currently done in Windows 11. Instead of seeing that pop-up, most web browsers will prompt you to head open the Default Apps section of Settings, where you will need to choose which web browser you’d like to use for each file type listed (the default on each will be, of course, Microsoft Edge). To get to this settings page yourself, just head to Settings > Apps > Default Apps.
The Verge tested Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave with this new “system,” and only Firefox managed to change all these options automatically without needing to ask you to do it for them. In that same piece, The Verge highlights concerns from various web browser makers, like Mozilla, Vivaldi, and Opera, regarding the direction Microsoft is taking with user choice.
It’s a shame, because Edge—despite its reputation—is really a good browser. I guess Microsoft thinks the only way to convince you of that fact is to force you to use it. That’s one way to get users on board, but it certainly feels predatory.