Mozilla deconstructs Microsoft protections to make it easier to change the default browser in Windows 10 and Windows 11
One of the complaints people have about Windows 11 is just how difficult Microsoft has made it to change the default web browser. The process is slightly easier in Windows 10, but it is still far from intuitive for the average user.
This is, of course, because Microsoft really does not want people to move away from Edge -- but, having free will and personal preferences -- changing the default web browser is precisely what many people want to do. Eager to offer people an alternative (specifically its own browser), Mozilla has successfully reverse engineered the system Microsoft had put in place, making it possible to switch to Firefox in just one click.
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Microsoft introduced a system designed to stop malware from changing the default web browser without permission. On the face of it, this is a nice security feature, but it is also problematic.
While anyone looking to switch from the likes of Chrome, Opera or Firefox to Microsoft Edge will find that this is a simple one-click process in Windows 10, the same is not true for anyone trying to migrate away from Edge. Microsoft engineered the system so that only Edge benefits from the one-click switching, while people switching to other browser have to go through a very convoluted process.
Developers from Mozilla have been able to crack the anti-hijacking system so it is possible to switch to Firefox without having to visit endless settings or click numerous prompts; one click, and it's done.
In a statement given to the Verge, a Mozilla spokesperson said:
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.
It is, presumably, only a matter of time before Microsoft toughens up the system so that Mozilla's workaround is rendered useless, and a game of cat-and-mouse is likely to ensue. Similarly, we can expect to see other browsers trying to work out how to make switching as simple as for Firefox users, and it is hard to say if Mozilla will share its findings with others to help out in this.