Microsoft is up to its old tricks again, again. A new update to its Windows 11 operating system makes it impossible to circumvent its built-in web browser, Microsoft Edge, for specific links such as those found in the Start Menu, Widgets, etc. Previously, a tiny app named EdgeDeflector provided a workaround for this behavior, but according to its author’s blog, a new build prevents his app from working entirely.
If you’re not familiar with EdgeDeflector, it is an app that used to be allowed to be set as the default app for links with the header of “microsoft-edge://,” which are links within the Windows Shell that would open in Microsoft Edge. The app just re-routed those links to https://, so they would open in whatever you had set as your default browser. If you’re not sure what yours is set to, simply copy this link — microsoft-edge:https://www.ctrl.blog — and type Windows Key+R, then paste it in the Run command, and hit Enter.
According to the software’s author, the new Windows Insider Preview build #22494 defeats his app completely. There are no workarounds or registry hacks you can employ to get certain links to open in any browser other than Edge, period. This link behavior is paired with Microsoft adding widgets and “web experiences” to Windows 11 that will automatically open links in Edge, and if you search for anything in the Start Menu, any link that appears will also only be allowed to be opened in Edge. Also, as you might have experienced previously, once you open Edge the software will often nag you to make it your default browser (take me back, please!). Anecdotally, we can recall installing mundane updates to Windows 10 that put a link to Edge back in our Taskbar, so suffice to say this behavior from Microsoft will come as a surprise to exactly nobody.
This is on top of Microsoft making it more difficult to permanently change the default browser in Windows 11. If you don’t set a new file association to “always use this app” the first time you run it, you will have to manually change every single file association for web links to get them to not open in Edge. There’s a pattern here, obviously, and as the software author notes, it hearkens back to the olden days where Microsoft was taken to task for promoting its Internet Explorer web browser over offerings from its competitors.
As far as what the future holds for EdgeDeflector goes, it’s looking pretty bleak. The author writes, “There are still ways I can work around the limitation, but every method left in my toolbox will require making destructive changes to Windows. Changes that can cause issues for the user down the line, and issues that I frankly don’t want to support.” No further updates to the software will be forthcoming until Microsoft reverses its position on the issue, which is unlikely. However, to be fair to Microsoft, a lot of users do actually enjoy using Edge now that’s Chromium-based, and also the company just completely reversed course by letting people install games purchased from its stores wherever they want, so we’ve seen Microsoft listen to its customers. Perhaps they’ll do it again here (but probably not).
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