When Microsoft announced Windows 11, it spent a lot of time harping on the “open” and “user friendly” nature of its new operating system. But this narrative is slowly falling apart with every Windows 11 update—especially the latest update, which forces Windows users to keep Edge as a default browser.
This story is a bit complicated, mainly because Microsoft has spent the last few years turning Windows’ “default app” settings into a stupid mess. You can’t just tick a box that says “I want to use Chrome as my default browser;” that would be too simple. Instead, you have to manually set your browser of choice as the default app for select URL and file types (HTML, PDF, HTTPS, SHT, WEBP, etc).
Microsoft hasn’t changed the above process, for better or worse. But the latest Windows 11 Insider builds (22483 and 22494) feature an aggressive change to Windows’ custom URI scheme. Here’s the scoop—Microsoft just broke all workarounds for Windows’ proprietary “microsoft-edge://” URL prefix, forcing all internal Windows links (such as Support links in Microsoft apps) to open the Edge browser instead of your default browser.
In other words, tools like EdgeDeflector no longer work. Neither do the workarounds that are built into Firefox and Brave. If you’re on the latest Windows 11 Insider build (or you’re a regular Windows 11 user reading this in the future), then all of your operating system’s built-in web links will open Microsoft Edge.
While we expect developers to find new workarounds to the “microsoft-edge://” URL prefix, it’s disappointing to see Microsoft double down on something so user-hostile. It doesn’t help that some of Windows 11’s new features, particularly its widgets, feature a ton of outbound web links that now only open Microsoft Edge.
Anyway, time is a flat circle. Microsoft didn’t learn its lesson during the Internet Explorer years, and it’s now risking the Edge browser’s credibility by forcing it onto customers.