Vivaldi CEO criticizes Microsoft Edge for anti-competitive practices
In 2013, the European Union slapped a massive $731 Million fine on Microsoft for failing to offer users a choice to set a default browser. 8 years have passed since then, has the Redmond company learned its lesson? Vivaldi's CEO/Co-founder Jón von Tetzchner, says no.
Tetzchner founded Opera browser along with Geir Ivarsøy in the mid-90s, before leaving the company in 2011. He founded Vivaldi Technologies in 2013, though the browser they created was released a couple of years later.
Around the same timeframe, in 2015, Microsoft unveiled Edge, built with the in-house Chakra core engine, as the new default browser in Windows 10. More importantly, this was the first step in replacing/retiring the legacy Internet Explorer.
What annoyed users is that Windows 10 complicated the way to set a different browser as the default handler. You need to jump through a couple of hoops in the Settings app, before selecting the application of your choice. This move was heavily criticized, notably by Mozilla. Fast-forward to 2021, and the same applies to Windows 11, though the new Edge is based on the Blink engine, from the Chromium open source project. For reference, Vivaldi, Opera also use the same engine.
Microsoft is pushing Edge in multiple ways. It is the company's operating system and browser, technically they can advertise whatever they want, which is precisely what they are doing. Whether it is competitively ethical, is the matter in question.
Jón von Tetzchner shared a screenshot, taken from his new laptop, on Vivaldi's blog. The image shows a search query for the word Vivaldi on Microsoft's Search Engine, Bing. The top result displayed a controversial message which says, "There is no need to download a new web browser. Microsoft recommends using Microsoft Edge for a fast, secure and modern web experience....."
When I saw that image, I thought, "No way that is real, it can't be". I was wrong, here is a screenshot from my own laptop, with the same message. I should mention that I have Firefox has my default browser, and not Edge.
That's not something anyone would like to see, least of all if you're a CEO of a rival browser maker, so Tetzchner getting upset about this is understandable. He goes on to criticize Microsoft Edge for anti-competitive practices including the complicated process of switching the browser, during which Windows 10 again asks you not to switch browsers.
Another screenshot shows Microsoft Edge offering the user to customize their experience, and the recommended settings sets Edge as the default browser. This is a screen I have seen many times, on new installs of Windows.
Now, of course you could ask. Why would you use Edge if you had set Vivaldi as the default browser. That is a good question, but Windows 10 and 11 are a step ahead. If you use the Start menu for online searches, and click on a web result, the operating system will redirect that link to open in Microsoft Edge, and not in your default browser. There are ways to bypass this, but not without the help of third-party software.
So, if you are not a tech-savvy user who switched to a different browser, but used search from Start, opened the link, and accepted Edge's recommended settings, it will be set as your default browser.
To be fair to Vivaldi, I don't believe Microsoft is targeting the browser. This message also appears when you search for Chrome and Firefox. If you don't see the message, keep the tab in focus, exit the browser, and reopen Edge. When it loads the page, you will see the prompt appear for a few seconds before disappearing.
From a browser maker's perspective, suggestions like these are literally going to steal users away from your browser. So the complaints are fair, Microsoft should let users make the choice on their own.
Tetzchner slammed Microsoft's moves as desperate, and called out the Microsoft Rewards program as a way to pay users to use the browser. Speaking of which, Brave Rewards does a similar thing, it's got nothing to do with Microsoft, but I want to point out the trend of incentivizing users to stick with the browser.
While some readers may view the tone of Tetzchner post as a rant, as a Firefox user I agree with his points. Microsoft is trying to turn the browser market into a monopoly. It is a numbers game between Chrome and Edge the two players hold the majority of the browser shares, while the likes of Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera and Brave are dwindling in the competitive industry.
Of these, Mozilla is the only browser brand to circumvent Microsoft's shenanigans, to make it easy for Firefox users to set it as their default browser. That said, the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 11 do make it a tad easier to switch to a different web browser. It's an improvement, but it's still not as convenient as it used to be prior to Windows 10.
Tetzchner has asked users in the US or EU, to write to or call representatives to investigate Microsoft related to Edge's anti-competitive. I'm not sure if this will happen, it didn't with Windows 10. People have gotten used to it for 6 years, but things have been getting out of hand recently.
Microsoft Edge's recent antics
Ars Technica's article focused on how Microsoft Edge started warning users of the risk of downloading Google Chrome. Really, Microsoft? I never support Google, but even I think this is unfair and dumb. The Verge reported that Edge was displaying some messages mocking Chrome.
Microsoft Edge runs on the same technology as Chrome, with the added trust of Microsoft.
I hate saving money,' said no one ever. Microsoft Edge is the best browser for online shopping.
That browser is so 2008! Do you know what's new? Microsoft Edge.
The irony in that last one is pure gold. That said, Google isn't any better in my opinion, its open-source mobile operating system, Android, ships with a dozen or so of the search giant's apps including Google Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Calendar, etc. A few of these are useful, but a good chunk of it is bloatware, which you can disable but not uninstall permanently. And for people who value their privacy or don't use Google services or prefer other apps/services, all of it is unwanted weight used by the system storage. Apple's iOS is similar in this regard, but I don't think its users expect anything different from the Cupertino company. Android is the more open, customizable OS that lets you side-load apps.
What do you think? Should Microsoft offer users an easier way to set the default browser?Advertisement