Firefox makes it easier to change the default browser on Windows 11
Mozilla has circumvented Microsoft’s restrictions on setting a default browser on Windows 11, making it easier to use Firefox by default. This fights off one of the more annoying aspects of the new operating system, which tries to push users toward Microsoft Edge.
If you’re not aware, Microsoft has made it even harder to change default browsers on Windows 11. The problem starts with the prompt that shows up when you click a link outside of the browser. If it’s the first time you’re clicking a link and you have more than one browser installed, you’ll be asked which browser you want to use. The thing is, if you choose an option and confirm it without checking the “Always use this app” box, you’ll never be prompted to choose a browser again. Microsft Edge remains the default, even if you opened that first link in a different browser.
To add insult to injury, Microsoft made it much harder to manually set a default app, too. Whereas you used to be able to select a default web browser, media player, and so on, now you have to set defaults for every file type individually. So, if you miss the initial chance to set a different browser as the default, it’s very difficult to go and change it yourself. Even when a browser prompts you to set it as the default, the process is tedious.
Clearly, Microsoft is overstepping some boundaries with this measure, and Mozilla decided to counter it. Now, when Firefox asks you to set it as the default browser, you’re no longer taken to the Settings app to set it manually. According to The Verge, Mozilla reverse-engineered the way Microsoft sets Edge as the default browser on Windows, and leveraged that to set its own browser as the default. Firefox does everything for you in the background, circumventing Microsoft’s protections.
This change was made with Firefox 91, which was released on August 10th, so it’s not completely new. However, it’s still noteworthy considering Microsoft still hasn’t changed the way default apps work on Windows 11 since the initial preview was released. Firefox is also the only major browser to do this, at least for now.
In a statement to The Verge, a Mozilla spokesperson reiterated that it’s Microsoft’s fault for making it so hard to set a default browser on Windows 10 and 11:
“People should have the ability to simply and easily set defaults, but they don’t (…). All operating systems should offer official developer support for default status so people can easily set their apps as default. Since that hasn’t happened on Windows 10 and 11, Firefox relies on other aspects of the Windows environment to give people an experience similar to what Windows provides to Edge when users choose Firefox to be their default browser.”
While Firefox is still the only browser to have done this, it’s likely a matter of time until others follow suit. Microsoft likely won’t be happy about this, but if other browser vendors follow this trend, it might force the company to reconsider its approach. Hopefully, the company will acknowledge the error of its ways sooner rather than later.