When you run a search in Windows 11 or activate links in some other parts of the operating system, then you will have those links opened in the Microsoft Edge web browser. While that may make sense for new installs initially, as Edge may be the only browser installed on the system at the time, it is an anti-user decision otherwise.
If you have set your default browser to Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi, or, even Chrome, then you will notice that Windows ignores the choice and still opens certain links in Microsoft Edge.
Tools like Edge Deflector or MSEdgeRedirect were created to redirect these requests to the user’s browser choice. There was never a technical reason for the limitation, as the links opened just fine in other browsers, when launched manually.
At least one of Microsoft’s intentions was to push its Microsoft Edge browser. What better way to do so than to force the use of the browser on the desktop operating system that is used by the majority of users?
The company released a new Insider Build to the Dev Channel this week. Build 23531 is a rather uneventful build that does not introduce new features to the operating system. It is a bug fix release for the most part, one that still suffers from a list of known issues.
There is one sentence though, that changes Microsoft’s entire narrative regarding the forced use of Microsoft Edge on Windows 11. Microsoft writes: “In the European Economic Area (EEA), Windows system components use the default browser to open links”.
In other words: users from the European Economic Area, which includes the European Union countries as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, will have activated links opened in their browser of choice. While this can be Microsoft Edge, it can also be any other browser that they choose.
The change landed in development builds and it will take some time before it lands in stable versions of Edge. The most likely scenario is a release in the 2023 Feature Update for the Windows 11 operating system, which will be released in the coming months.
One question that Microsoft may have to answer is why it is making the change for EEA regions only and not for all users of its operating system. The answer can’t be a technical one, as Microsoft can’t explain why the restriction is lifted in some regions and not in others.
A more likely answer is that the EU has pressured Microsoft in lifting the restriction for its citizens.