Microsoft is force-feeding Edge to Windows users with a spyware-like install

If I told you that my entire screen just got taken over by a new app that I’d never installed or asked for — it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch — you’d probably tell me to run a virus scanner and avoid shady web sites, no?

But the insanely intrusive app I’m talking about isn’t a bit of ransomware. It’s Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser, that your company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows.

Seriously, when I restarted my Windows 10 desktop this week, an app I’d never asked for:

  1. Immediately launched itself
  2. Tried to convince me to migrate away from Chrome, giving me no discernible way to click away or say no
  3. Pinned itself to my desktop and taskbar
  4. Ignored my previous browser preference by asking me — next time I launched a internet site — whether I was sure I desired to use Chrome as opposed to Microsoft’s oh-so-humble recommendation.

Did I mention that, around this update, you can’t uninstall Edge anymore?

It all straight away made me think: what would the antitrust enforcers of the ‘90s, who punished Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, think about this modern abuse of Microsoft’s platform?

But mostly, I’m astonished Microsoft would shoot it self in the foot by stooping so low, using tactics I’ve only ever seen from purveyors of adware, spyware, and ransomware. I installed this copy of Windows with a disk I purchased, incidentally. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like to think I still own my desktop and get to decide what I put there.

That’s especially true of owners of Windows 7 and Windows 8, I imagine, that are also receiving unwanted gift copies of the new Edge right now:

And I’m not astonished that some angry Windows users happen to be railing contrary to the fact that this came included in a forced Windows update, which Microsoft has already had a damn hard time justifying without invading people’s desktops as well. It’s going to be harder to purchase the argument that forced updates are necessary for security when they’re pulling double-duty being an intrusive marketing tool.

Heck, we can’t even get Americans to wear life-saving masks in public areas right now.

Microsoft isn’t trying to hide nearly all of this, incidentally: it lays out the so-called “First Run Experience” in this update changelog. So I figured I’d see if the company may possibly say more. Here is a listing of questions I sent Microsoft, which the company declined to substantively answer on the record or on back ground:

  • What was the goal and reasoning here?
  • Why does Microsoft feel that this is appropriate?
  • Was it a success, of course, if so, in what metric?
  • What does Microsoft’s telemetry show users are doing in response to being confronted with Edge pins, desktop icons, auto-launch, and reset default apps?
  • Would Microsoft do this again?
  • Will Microsoft stop this now, and/or change anything concerning this update?
  • What is Microsoft’s philosophy on dark pattern computer software design?

The only justifications the company could provide me are that, technically, the brand new Edge is replacing the old Edge that already comes with Windows 10; Microsoft wants you to use the most readily useful, most secure version of its browser; and you will still say no — though in this instance, a “no” involves force-closing Edge, reaffirming your default browser choice, and having to spend a minute deleting undesired junk on your own desktop.

Time to reaffirm the browser choice I already made years back.

Here’s one more question: Microsoft, you think this behavior makes Windows users actually want to try Edge?

Because if I’m being honest, after the initial shock wore off, I came across Edge easy enough to ignore. The experience mostly just left a bad taste within my mouth.

Before, I had actually been enthusiastic about this new Chromium-based version of Edge! I have been planning to check it out. I’ve been toying with Firefox and Opera for weeks now, considering a potential migration from Chrome.

Now — as a user, maybe not a journalist — I can’t help but feel just like I should ignore Edge on principle. And if there’s a sizable fraction of users who feel the same, somebody inside Microsoft is facepalming hard right about now.

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