Mozilla, Microsoft in Browser Dispute

John Lister's picture

Mozilla has found a way to make it easier to set Firefox as a default browser in Windows. The move may raise eyebrows at Microsoft, as it involved getting past measures designed to combat malware.

By default, Windows doesn't let users set an application as the default for a particular task (web browsing or otherwise) within the application itself. That's in principle a sensible idea as it reduces the risk of malware setting itself as a default app or tricking a user into doing so.

Once established as a default app, the malware would have a big advantage as it would be opened more often, potentially before the user had realized it was in place.

Edge Recommended In Prompt

The problem with this technology is that it makes switching the default browser in Windows a step or two more complicated than many would like. It usually involves redirecting the user to the Windows Settings menu where they'll need to manually choose their new default browser.

They will also usually see a warning from Microsoft to rethink whether they really want to switch away from Microsoft's Edge. Whilst these warnings don't technically say anything untrue, they do heavily promote Edge as the "recommended" option in a way that isn't exactly unbiased.

Mozilla has now made some changes under the bonnet and it's now possible to simply click a button in Firefox to set it as the default with no further actions needed. It hasn't said exactly how it did this other than to tell The Verge that the method: "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." (Source:

Security Implications

Microsoft hasn't officially responded to the Mozilla move other than to say its method is not supported in Windows. (Source:

The big questions now are whether other browser developers will use similar tactics, and whether Microsoft will try to crack down and block it from working. That might make sense from a security perspective with Microsoft arguing it can't risk malware developers figuring out the Mozilla method and taking advantage. On the other hand, it would be a clear case of Microsoft taking an intentional action to make it less convenient to switch to rival browsers, which might not play well.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Mozilla right to make this move? Do you think it risks undermining security? Does having to go to a settings menu and ignore a Microsoft suggestion really deter people from switching browsers or is this just a point of principle?

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Average: 4.9 (13 votes)


OadbyPC's picture

As I've said before, I would love it if MS had based their new Edge on Firefox; imagine the kudos for MS and the improvements to Firefox!

Please, please, if anyone here has the clout/influence etc to encourage MS to make the change (and I will happily sign any petition anyone sets up), please do so!

DLStoehner's picture

I keep saying the same thing "Microsoft - Fix Internet Explorer. Don't keep coming up with different browsers."

mark_w8's picture

Either way it turns out, I believe Mozilla ended up doing a good deed. Either:

A) They have now allowed folks to pick a default browser without having to jump through hoops or reading biased warnings.


B) They helped show MS that it had a security hole, which (I believe) should be patched (assuming they are correct in asserting and showing that there is some kind of security risk involved).

buzzallnight's picture

Every time someone finds a security flaw in their software
they should try to hire them!!!!!!!!!!!!
M$ has never had a bug free product in the history of the company!!!!!!
M$ has never had a bug free product after ten years of trying to fix it!!!!!!!!!!

And maybe this is the wake up call they need
even their competitors are breaking into their software LOL
it is so pitiful you don't know whether to laugh or cry.
All I can say is after 40 years in the computer repair industry

Gurugabe's picture

Simply put, good security is usually not convenient. Now Firefox, Mozilla boasts about their products to be privacy and security advocates and they pull something like this? Work with M$ on coming up with a way to making changing default browsers faster. Like maybe if the browser name is x, y, or z, you are preauthorized for fast default browser switching. Otherwise, you must go through the inconvenient way.

beach.boui's picture

I guess Microsnot is fully onboard with the philosophy, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em". The reason they based the Edge browser on the Chrome engine is because Chrome is built to facilitate massive data collection. It is best described as spyware in sheep's clothing. Microsoft wants to eat heavily into Google's data mining revenues with their own data collection efforts, both to sell Microsoft products and to get a healthy slice of the data brokers pie. The Edge browser is specifically and purposely crafted to make "fingerprinting" your browser easier and more accurate. Every little setting you change, especially in the Appearance section of the settings, enables Microsnot to more easily and accurately fingerprint your browser to identify you and build a profile on your use of the browser, including every key you tap on the keyboard.

If you're gonna use a Chrome based browser, use Brave, and don't touch the Appearance settings. Otherwise, stick with Firefox. Firefox rules!

capndad_15208's picture

Remember Netscape? It was once my favored browser until they couldn't sustain it; I even had a subscription. MS was always "fixing Internet Explorer" but never managed that trick. It eventually became Mozilla, which produces Firefox.

'Way back when, MS created a DOS for IBM and one for themselves. Both were equally compatible but MS inserted a warning when the IBM version was being installed. The warning stated that the IBM DOS might cause problems. That scared off a lot of users.

I smell something similar cooking in this dispute.

Amazon13's picture

I have tried everything, to get around MS and Google... Both are too invasive and collect too much information on users. I believe that one's browser should be sacred, just like VPN's, that is like having a Spy Cam in your bedroom permanently!

I'm all for Browsers privatizing there Browsers without one having to log into a private window! We try and trust sites we visit and now chooses the cookies per'se we allow to spy on us... I love the Internet, but I feel spied upon when ever I'm surfing it! It should not be that way!