Windows 11 will stop forcing Edge on users, but only in Europe

From PC World: The integrated web search in the Windows Start menu is cool, and a lot more useful than you might think. But like just about every other part of Windows lately, it insists on keeping you in Microsoft’s playpen by forcing links to open in the Edge browser. That’s about to change, at least if you live in most of continental Europe. A recent change to the developer channel indicates that links from the Start search and widgets in Windows 11 will open in the operating system’s default browser, whatever that happens to be.

The change comes in an August announcement on the Windows Insider Preview notes, with a pointed addendum that it’s only for the European Economic Area. That’s all the countries in the European Union, plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. “Windows system components use the default browser to open links,” says the post, a change that will presumably head to the general Windows 11 release within a few weeks or a couple of months. It should apply to pretty much any part of the operating system that opens a link via a browser, from the main Start menu search to help links deep in submenus.

This will finally fix an issue (Microsoft would call it a “feature”) that users have been complaining about for years, ever since Microsoft inexorably tied its proprietary services to the Edge browser and, by extension, the Bing search engine. PCWorld’s Mark Hachman was documenting Microsoft’s iron grip over Edge integration way back in 2016. There have been various user work-arounds for this behavior for those who wanted to exclusively use third-party browsers like Chrome or Firefox. But Microsoft has repeatedly adjusted Windows to block these tools.

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