Update Microsoft Windows 11 build 22494 prevents links associated with the Microsoft Edge browser from being handled by third-party applications, a change a developer considers anti-competitive.
In 2017, Daniel Aleksandersen created a free helper app called EdgeDeflector to counter behavior changes Microsoft made in the way Windows handles mouse clicks on certain web links.
https:// the links are managed by the default browser defined for the system in question. But there are ways to register a custom protocol handler, for operating systems and web browsers, that defines a given resource access scheme (URI).
This is exactly what Microsoft did when they created the microsoft-edge: URI scheme. By prefixing certain links like
microsoft-edge:https://example.com in the place of
https://example.com, the company can instruct Windows to use Edge to display example.com instead of the system’s default browser.
Microsoft doesn’t do this for all web links – it hasn’t completely rejected the browser choice. It applies the
microsoft-edge:// protocol to Windows 10 services such as News and Interest, Widgets in Windows 11, various help links in the Settings app, search links in the Start menu, Cortana links, and links sent from paired Android devices . Clicking on these links will open normally in Edge, regardless of the browser’s default setting.
microsoft-edge:// protocol is used, EdgeDeflector intercepts protocol mapping to force affected links to open in user’s default browser as usual
https:// connections. This allows users to override Microsoft and direct links to whatever browsers they want.
This approach has proven to be popular: Brave and Firefox recently implemented their own
microsoft-edge:// URI scheme interception code to counter Microsoft’s efforts to force
microsoft-edge:// links in his Edge browser.
But since Windows 11 build 22494, released last week, EdgeDeflector no longer works.
This is in addition to the fact that Microsoft makes it tedious to change the default browser on Windows 11 from Edge: in the system settings, you have to go to Applications, then Default applications, find your preferred installed browser, and then assign all links and files. types you need in this browser, by clicking on the additional dialogs that Windows offers you. Your favorite browser may be able to offer a shortcut through this process when you install it or tell it to make it your default.
The register asked Brave and Mozilla if their respective link interception implementations for the
microsoft-edge:// The URI scheme still works.
In an email to The register, a Mozilla spokesperson confirmed that the Windows switch broke Firefox’s Edge protocol workaround.
“People deserve the choice,” the spokesperson said. “They should be able to set defaults simply and easily, and their choice of default browser should be respected. We have been working on code that launches Firefox when the Microsoft Edge protocol is used for users who have already chosen Firefox as their default browser.
“Following the recent change to Windows 11, this planned implementation will no longer be possible. “
Brave CEO Brendan Eich said The register its Windows 11 testers have yet to provide an update, but allowed Aleksandersen’s post to look pretty dire. “[Microsoft] must appear [that the] antitrust Eye of Sauron examines [Google, Facebook, and Apple] only, “he observed.
In an email to The register, Aleksandersen said the change affects both Brave and Firefox.
“No program other than Microsoft Edge can handle the protocol,” he said. “I tested Brave (stable version) and a version of Firefox with the patch to add the protocol. They are also not allowed to support it.”
Microsoft is not a good steward of the Windows operating system. They prioritize ads, bundles, and service subscriptions over their users’ productivity
“Microsoft did not specifically block EdgeDeflector. Windows simply bypasses the normal Windows protocol management system and still uses Edge for that specific protocol.”
According to Aleksandersen, the latest version of Windows 11 only allows the Edge browser to handle the
“No third-party application is allowed to manage the protocol,” he wrote in a blog post Thursday. “You cannot change the default protocol association through registry changes, OEM partner customizations, Microsoft Edge package changes, interference with
OpenWith.exe, or any other hackish workaround. “
Aleksandersen says Windows will force Edge to use even if you remove it, opening a blank UWP window and presenting an error message rather than reverting to the default browser.
The switch to Windows means EdgeDeflector will no longer receive updates unless this behavior is reversed, Aleksandersen said.
“These are no longer the actions of a caring company that cares about its product,” Aleksandersen said. “Microsoft is not a good steward of the Windows operating system. They prioritize advertisements, bundles and service subscriptions over the productivity of their users.”
Aleksandersen advises those opposing the change to raise the issue with their local antitrust regulator or switch to Linux.
Ironically, as Aleksandersen puts it, vendor-specific URI schemes took off in February 2014 after Google introduced a
googlechrome:// for its mobile apps to counter Apple’s anti-competitive insistence that Safari should manage certain links on iOS devices.
“Microsoft has just turned the situation around and changed more and more links in its operating system and applications to use its vendor-specific URL scheme,” he said in an article last month.
The register asked the US Department of Justice if they were aware of this change and, if so, if they were concerned, given Microsoft’s previous conviction for abuse of market dominance. The DoJ declined to comment.
“Microsoft’s use of
microsoft-edge:// protocol instead of regular
https:// links is in itself an antitrust problem, “said Aleksandersen The register. “It annoyed me so much that I created EdgeDeflector to combat its monopolistic and user-hostile behavior.”
“I think Microsoft clearly has no fear of antitrust regulators.
“They are putting up more barriers and are more aggressive now than they were in the past when they were hit with antitrust fines. prompting the user to “choose Edge” after each system update, by hiding / unhiding other browsers from your taskbar.)
“On top of that, they use these horrible
microsoft-edge:// links in highly visible places of the operating system to completely bypass the browser’s default settings. “
Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment. ®
Updated to add November 12
Microsoft considers that users can open
microsoft-edge: URLs in a non-Edge browser are a bug and fixed this issue. The Windows 11 build 22000.346 release notes, released Friday to Insider Beta and the release preview channels, state:
So there you go, Microsoft really wants you to live on Edge.