Twenty-three years ago, Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer to the world, and began bundling it with its Windows 95 operating system as the default web browser. At the time, a browser called Netscape Navigator was the web standard, but Microsoft wanted a share of the browser market so badly that they actively inhibited use of Navigator — or any other fledgling web browser — by making Internet Explorer part of the operating system so that it couldn’t be uninstalled by the usual means.
This landed Microsoft in hot water with antitrust agencies, and after a long, drawn out court battle, the company was forced to decouple the browser from Windows. Further, Microsoft was forced to make alternative web browser options prominently available.
It seems that history may be close to repeating itself. According to Ars Technica, the next Windows 10 update — version 1809, due in October — will watch for installations of other web browsers, then prompt the user to try Microsoft Edge instead. A screenshot of the annoying promotional prompt follows.
It looks like they will be able to avoid antitrust issues this time, because they offer options to install the third party software anyway, and the prompt can apparently be turned off.
However, Microsoft is already receiving push-back from power users on Twitter and other social media platforms — and the product isn’t even available for general consumption yet. Tech site Tom’s Hardware sees the similarity to the Internet Explorer debacle and likens the invasive new prompt to “standing 1,001 feet away because it means a restraining order isn’t technically being broken.” Twitter user Sean Hoffman says, “What kind of slimy marketing cesspool crap is this Microsoft? I proceed to launch the Firefox installer and Windows 10 pops this up? If I wanted to use your browser, I would.”
In just 24 hours, that post was retweeted 578 times, a clear indication that Mr. Hoffman is not alone in his exasperation.
It’s not all bad news, though. By most accounts, Edge really is a capable web browser, without the security holes of its predecessor, Internet Explorer. The logo is still a blue “e”, though, and due to the horrible reputation and lax security of IE, some of that baggage comes across to the new product. Power users tend to avoid Edge as much as possible because of the pre-existing bad reputation. Casual users have probably been told by power users to avoid it, and so they do. According to ZDNet, Edge users represented just 8 percent of the 12 billion users that visited United States governmental websites during the first three months of 2018.
Thanks to their past actions in this arena, Microsoft has an uphill battle to make Edge more appealing — and their opening salvo feels more like a shot across the bow.