Windows 11 kills easy path for changing your default browser — Brave and Firefox fight back

Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 is already rubbing some users the wrong way. The new OS makes it difficult to change your default browser. Microsoft seemingly doesn't want to lay down an easy path for users to ditch Edge in favor of other rivals, but browsers such as Brave and Firefox are retaliating.

As spotted by Ctrl Blog's Daniel Aleksandersen, the developer behind the popular EdgeDeflector app (a program that forces Windows to use your default browser), Brave's v1.30.86 update addresses Microsoft's Edge interception scheme by using EdgeDeflector-influenced code. Firefox may do the same with an upcoming update.

Brave and Firefox gear up to battle Microsoft Edge

Microsoft is swapping out links in the Windows shell with "microsoft-edge:" instead of using "https:", Aleksandersen explained. Edge is the only browser that recognizes these links, so even if your default browser is Google Chrome or Brave, the Edge browser opens instead. 

EdgeDeflector recognizes this and deters Microsoft's interception by rewriting them back to "https:" links. As a result, your default web browser opens instead. Brave used similar logic for its recent update. "You no longer need to install EdgeDeflector if you’re using Brave as your default browser," Aleksandersen said. "It’ll pop up as an option when you click on a microsoft-edge: link."

Interestingly, Brave is also planning on redirecting Windows Search links (which lead to Bing) to the users' preferred search engine. However, Aleksandersen isn't on board with that one. "It’s a bit icky because Brave Software benefits financially from directing more searches to its search provider partners, and its own Brave Search portal," he said.

Brave is the first internet crawler to tackle Microsoft's link-hijacking subterfuge. Other browsers may follow Brave's footsteps. Firefox, for example, is poised to implement a similar Edge-deflecting protocol, but it's still under review as of this writing.

It'll be interesting to see how these browser wars play out. I'm sure Microsoft will be displeased with Brave if it does manage to redirect Bing-based Windows Search links — and the Redmond-based tech giant may not take this change laying down. If so, I'll be right here with my popcorn watching Microsoft, Mozilla, Brave, Google and more fight for our attention.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!