Microsoft blocks workaround that let Windows 11 users avoid its Edge browser

Apps like EdgeDeflector won't be able to redirect Start menu results.


Microsoft plans to update Windows 11 to block a workaround that has allowed users to open Start menu search results in a browser other than Edge. The loophole was popularized by EdgeDeflector, an app that allows you to bypass some of the built-in browser restrictions found in Windows 10 and 11. Before this week, companies like Mozilla and Brave had planned to implement similar workarounds to allow users to open Start menu results in their respective browsers, but now won't be able to do so.

When the block first appeared in an early preview build of Windows 11 last week, it looked like it was added by mistake. However, on Monday, the company confirmed it intentionally closed the loophole.

“Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers,” a spokesperson for Microsoft told The Verge. “At the same time, Windows also offers certain end-to-end customer experiences in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, the search experience from the taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected. When we become aware of improper redirection, we issue a fix.”

Daniel Aleksandersen, the developer of EdgeDeflector, was quick to criticize the move. “These aren’t the actions of an attentive company that cares about its product anymore,” he said in a blog post. “Microsoft isn’t a good steward of the Windows operating system. They’re prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users’ productivity.”

Mozilla was similarly critical of Microsoft. “People deserve choice. They should have the ability to simply and easily set defaults and their choice of default browser should be respected,” a spokesperson for the company told The Verge. “We have worked on code that launches Firefox when the microsoft-edge protocol is used for those users that have already chosen Firefox as their default browser. Following the recent change to Windows 11, this planned implementation will no longer be possible.”

Other than the fact Microsoft should let Edge speak for itself, the company’s behavior here raises a question about its priorities. Windows 11 does not make it easy to switch your default browser. Someone shouldn’t have to go through the trouble of telling Windows they want to use a different browser only for the operating system to show them webpages in one they specifically decided they don’t want to use.