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Edge and Windows 11 — the return of Microsoft’s IE fiasco?


Today, Microsoft dukes it out with the FAANG stocks for top place in the tech stock market. But 20 years ago, Microsoft let out a big sigh of relief when it dodged a bullet.

US District Court judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who oversaw the Department of Justice vs. Microsoft, had ruled in 2000 that Microsoft was a monopoly that should be broken up into two companies. This part of his decision was overturned in 2001, or we’d be living in a very different technology world.

The root cause of Jackson’s decision? Microsoft had used its Windows monopoly to crush its web browser rival Netscape. The final decision gave Microsoft a wrist-slap and required it to give other browsers a chance to run on Windows. So what the heck is going on now with Windows 11 and Edge, Microsoft?!

In case you haven’t heard, a new Windows 11 Insider Preview build gets in the way of workarounds that enable users to set up other web browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, as defaults for handling web links. So, for example, if I sent you an e-mail with a link to one of my favorite xkcd cartoons and you opened it in Outlook on a PC with this preview version of Windows 11, it would open in Edge — even if your preferred browser is Chrome.

This is not the first time Microsoft has tried to force Edge down users’ throats, just as it did with Internet Explorer in the 1990s. For example, in Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17623 in 2018, Microsoft began “testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge.”

This wasn’t an isolated instance. For example, in Windows 10 if you open an MSN news article, the default is to show you the page in Edge. Users are always complaining about being forced to use Edge. Last year, not long after Microsoft introduced its Chrome-based version of Edge, it pushed the revamped Edge onto all systems when they updated to Windows 10, version 2004. People were not happy.

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