Mozilla criticizes Microsoft over Windows 10 browser changes


The browser wars may be heating up again.

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, has taken aim at longtime rival Microsoft over the way the latter’s new Windows 10 operating system handles users’ choices of browsers and other software. Mozilla is accusing Microsoft of overriding users’ preferences and making it difficult to change Windows 10’s default applications.

Saying that those aspects of the new software are “very disturbing,” Mozilla CEO Chris Beard, in an open letter posted Thursday on Mozilla’s Web site, called on Microsoft to reverse course.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience,” Beard said.

A Microsoft representative said the company plans to issue a response to Mozilla later today.

Released Wednesday, Windows 10 is the latest version of Microsoft’s PC operating system. The software features a new Web browser dubbed Microsoft Edge. Edge replaces Internet Explorer, the browser that has been a part of Windows since the late 1990s and which famously battled with Firefox’s predecessor, Netscape Navigator, for market share and control of the nascent World Wide Web.

That battle led to an antitrust suit against Microsoft that ultimately required the company to allow consumers to install rival browsers and essentially give those browsers the same status in Windows as Internet Explorer had. The provisions of the settlement have now expired, but previous versions of Windows have allowed users to relatively easily change the default browser or other software.

Mozilla is charging that Microsoft is backsliding into its old ways. When users upgrade from a previous version of Windows to Windows 10, the organization charges, the new software will override their preference for Web browser. So, if a user running Windows 7 has specified that Google Chrome is their default browser, they will find when they upgrade to Windows 10 that Microsoft Edge is now the default.

The organization is also charging that Microsoft has made it more difficult and less intuitive for users to change the default browser. In the past, users could typically change their default browser by pressing one button in their browser’s settings area.

Now, however, changing the default browser requires additional steps. If users click that same button in their browser settings, they’ll be taken to Windows 10’s settings area, whether they have to scroll to find browser settings and know to click where it says “Microsoft Edge” to change it to another browser.

“With the launch of Windows 10 we are deeply disappointed to see Microsoft take such a dramatic step backwards,” Beard said in his letter.

UPDATE: A Microsoft representative sent me the following statement from the company: “We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade. During the upgrade, consumers have the choice to set defaults, including for web browsing. Following the upgrade, they can easily choose the default browser of their choice.  As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.”

Photo: Screen capture of a Windows 10 computer running Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox side-by-side (Troy Wolverton).


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  • Kate

    I am unable to use Firefox or Chrome on my Surface RT. IE is my only choice.

    • synapse0

      That’s because Google and Firefox never decided to create browsers for Windows RT.

  • CallousOneToo

    *** If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years and starting with the browser wars of the late 1990s is that when it comes to Microsoft, nothing is as it seems on the surface and there will almost always be some problem and/or a catch to their latest product. I don’t care if Microsoft is offering a “free” upgrade to their basic version of their latest OS. I’ll be sticking with Win7 Pro until they no longer support the OS and then at that time I’ll review my options like changing to Mac
    or Linux. ***

  • Nicolae-Ionut Cosma

    I fail to understand why Mozilla is so upset about this. In other OS-es is equally hard or harder to change the default browser. Have you tried to change the default browser in Ubuntu? It takes the same amount of clicks as in Windows 10.