Windows 8: The return of the browser choice screen

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 6, 2012
Updated • Sep 6, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

I had hopes that the EU would not force Microsoft to integrate the browser choice screen, or browser ballot as it was called, in its newest Windows 8 operating system. Why? Because it does not make sense. If you know about other web browsers, chance is high that you are already using a different browser as your default browser, and in this case, won't get to see the browser choice screen anyway. If you do not know about other browsers, you won't be able to make an educated decision about the browsers offered to you as you are only presented with a paragraph of text created by the creators of the browser. And while you could do some research to find the best browser for you, or pick one or multiple browsers from the list to test them out, it is likely that the majority of users won't go through that length.

Anyway, if you have installed the Windows 8 RTM on a system and are currently residing in a country that is forcing this upon its citizens, then you will find an important update on Windows Update. The update does not get installed automatically, likely because it is being held back and unleashed once the final version of the OS comes out.

You can however install the update manually, and if you do and restart your PC, you will notice that the browser choice screen gets loaded on the next start. That is, unless you have installed  a program or tweaked the system to skip the start page on boot. If you did, you won't see the options menu as it is a startpage app. What's interesting in this regard is that it is possible to load Metro apps right on system boot.

You can select to install any of the browsers offered to you - Safari is missing - click on tell me more links for additional information, use the select later button to not make a decision at this point in time, or close the window by click-dragging the window from top to bottom (or using Alt-F4). You can reopen the app at any time as it is linked on the start page and classic desktop for easy access., or remove that tile with a right-click and the selection of unpin from start.

Here are important information about the browser choice screen:

  • Browsers that you have already installed won't be removed from the operating system when you select to install a different browser. It may happen that they are updated though. The update will however unpin Internet Explorer from the system's taskbar.
  • Users in the following countries will receive the Browser Choice update: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
  • The browser descriptions may appear in English and not your native language if the creators of the browser have not provided Microsoft with a translated version for that language.

What's your take on the integration of browser choice in Windows 8? (thanks Ilev for the tip)


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  1. Arto Ahlstedt said on December 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I have no other quibbles with this browser choice fiasco except that it is simply lacking one critical option: “Leave my system as it is, and never bother me again.” This lack of zero-action option is either a deliberate devil-reading-bible type interpretation by Microsoft to childlishly protest against EU or actually a goal of the browser choice agreement. Hard to tell which, but it bothers me and millions of other users greatly, forcing us to find workarounds against this forced misfeature. Please, boys, can you finally get along even this much?

  2. Howard Pearce said on September 8, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    browsers not mentioned should sue the EU for product discrimination !

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 9, 2012 at 10:24 am

      It would have really been funny if Microsoft would have added 100 browsers or more on a single page.

  3. senina said on September 7, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Just these five browsers for choosing? Avant browser was on the list before.

    1. ilev said on September 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      There are 10 browsers on the list. This is just the first page.

  4. Morely Dotes said on September 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    “Because it does not make sense. If you know about other web browsers, chance is high that you are already using a different browser as your default browser, and in this case, won’t get to see the browser choice screen anyway.”

    Wrong. If you are doing a clean install on a blank hard drive, or buying a new computer with Windows 8 installed by the OEM, you will not already have your favorite browser install on the computer. Personally, I plan to avoid Windows 8 as it if were a combination of leprosy and bubonic plague with a little botulism sauce, but if I were forced to have Windows 8, I would want the browser choice option so that I would not have to be exposed to the horror of Microsoft Internet Explorer any more than absolutely necessary.

    So, yes, Martin, it *does* make sense. Your pro-Microsoft slant is showing.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 7, 2012 at 12:59 am

      I’m not pro-anything. For me, it is not an issue to fire up IE after installation of the operating system to open or to download those browsers from those legit sites. Once installed I switch to the installed browser and am done with Internet Explorer.

      1. Threshold said on September 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        I am sorry Martin but I am too in favour of the ballot.

        You pick your case as the standard but I think of my parents who, without the ballot, would go straight to IE.

        This way they at least are aware of other options.
        Even I wasn’t aware of all those browsers and certainly didn’t mind finding out.

        All that said the ballot idea was started when there was no Chrome around which proved that aggressive marketing works wonders.

      2. ilev said on September 7, 2012 at 7:27 am

        I am in favor for mandatory browser ballot in Windows . Many don’t even know what a browser is and think the e icon = enternt . Presenting a browser ballot will raise questions by the users which will help them to understand more about Internet.
        As IE was never very secure (ex. plash updates in IE 10) and is never fixed/updated for bugs,
        except for security bugs, and IE has a new version only once a year, I always install Chrome on family
        and friends Windows PCs. I remove IE’s icon & short cut from the desktop and replace Chrome’s icon with IE’s icon so not to confuse the users. Chrome is updates automatically in the backgroud
        so the users are always with the latest, safest, version.

  5. Damir said on September 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Martin, i’m not sure how much is reliable source, but there is specific information about Safari end for Windows.

  6. ilev said on September 6, 2012 at 10:51 am


    Windows RT is still Windows (8) but on ARM, so the rule that applies to Windows in EU
    in regard to browser ballot , will apply to Windows RT as well.

    Windows RT may breach Microsoft-EU ‘browser ballot’ deal

    The European Commission is keeping its eye on Microsoft, after a U.S. Senate subcommittee said it would investigate potential antitrust matters relating to Windows on ARM browsers.

    Microsoft’s plan to restrict desktop-running third-party browsers, such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome, on its forthcoming operating system may fall foul of a settlement reached between the software giant and the European regulators.

    The European Commission said it will remain “vigilant” to Microsoft’s competition commitments in the browser space, but admitted it wasn’t sure whether the tablet edition of Windows 8 fell actually fell within the scope of the agreement, according to IDG.

    Mozilla blew the whistle on the browser ballot case in a May 9 company blog post. Mozilla general counsel Harvey Anderson said:

    “If Windows on ARM is simply another version of Windows on new hardware, it also runs afoul of the EC browser choice commitments and seems to represent the very behavior the DOJ-Microsoft settlement sought to prohibit.”…

  7. ilev said on September 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Safari isn’t supported any more on Windows (you can still download version 5)

    1. ilev said on September 6, 2012 at 10:16 am

      P.S In order to sell in EU, Microsoft will have to add browser ballot to Windows RT too.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

        Where have you read that?

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