Mozilla's CEO attacks Microsoft over Windows 10 default browser settings

Firefox boss, Chris Beard blasts Microsoft over the default browser settings in Windows 10

Says, everything great about Edge, Windows’ killer new Browser; which actually affect all programs, not just browsers

If you have upgraded your system to Windows 10, then the chances are you noticed the Edge browser has become you default on the shiny new operating system. Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has blasted Microsoft in a pair of posts to the organization’s blog, arguing that Windows 10’s default browser settings are a “dramatic step backwards” for respecting user choice.

Microsoft began its Windows 10 ad campaign last week by having Ethan Hawke explain to us how adorable babies will grow up with this wonderful new technology, appealing to consumers’ love for smooth voices, catchy songs, and cuteness.

Chris Beard, the CEO of Mozilla has posted an “open letter to Microsoft’s CEO” about the way that Windows 10 is handling default programs. He has complained about “the Windows 10 upgrade experience that strips users of their choice” because Microsoft’s Edge browser becomes the default after an “in place” upgrade.

Beard has said: “we reached out to your team to discuss this issue. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any meaningful progress, hence this letter.”

Satya,
I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Windows 10. Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have.

When we first saw the Windows 10 upgrade experience that strips users of their choice by effectively overriding existing user preferences for the Web browser and other apps, we reached out to your team to discuss this issue. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any meaningful progress, hence this letter.

We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost.

Mozilla exists to bring choice, control and opportunity to everyone. We build Firefox and our other products for this reason. We build Mozilla as a non-profit organization for this reason. And we work to make the Internet experience beyond our products represent these values as much as we can.

Sometimes we see great progress, where consumer products respect individuals and their choices. However, with the launch of Windows 10 we are deeply disappointed to see Microsoft take such a dramatic step backwards.

These changes aren’t unsettling to us because we’re the organization that makes Firefox. They are unsettling because there are millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored, and because of the increased complexity put into everyone’s way if and when they choose to make a choice different than what Microsoft prefers.

We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience. It also should be easier for people to assert new choices and preferences, not just for other Microsoft products, through the default settings APIs and user interfaces.

Please give your users the choice and control they deserve in Windows 10.

Sincerely,
Chris Beard
CEO, Mozilla

Mozilla knows, Windows 10 users can change the defaults to whatever they want. However, Beard complains that “it now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks,” and that it’s “confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost”, in other word its SIMPLY CONFUSING and lengthy process.

The letter also includes a lightly veiled threat of anti-trust action in Beard’s claim that “we are deeply disappointed to see Microsoft take such a dramatic step backwards.” Microsoft has been emerging from a decade of close US judicial supervision that followed its defeat in a major anti-trust trial prompted mainly by Netscape, Mozilla’s predecessor. The US action was followed by a European case that resulted on a “browser ballot” being imposed, to force users to choose.

Microsoft has already announced its plans to change the default process in Windows 10 in a blog post on May 20, Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10122 for PCs.

Microsoft has a new build for PCs going out to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring – Build 10122. This build is expected to be a bit more stable and polished than the last one, which is to be expected to stabilize for the public release by this summer. From here on out you’ll see fewer big feature changes from build to build, and more tuning, tweaking, stabilizing, and polishing. The Insider Previews continue to be aimed at very technical people who want to play with pre-released code, It is believed that everyone of us would feel more and more comfortable using this build and future builds on our day to day systems.

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10122 for PCs

Here is what’s new in this build

  • Start and Continuum improvements
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Changes to how Windows 10 handles default apps
  • Redesigned Insider Hub
  • Here are some issues that have been fixed:
    • The visual glitch (“rectangle slivers”) that appears on Live Tiles on the Start menu with the new tile animation. In general, performance of the Start menu should be better in this build.
    • A lot of the crashes with Microsoft Edge (Project Spartan) reported by Windows Insiders.
    • Developers – when you go to Settings > Update & Security > For developers – it no longer crashes the Settings app.
    • Some people were seeing where their graphics driver fails to install from Windows Update with error code 80070103. This was happening because WU was trying to re-issue the driver.
    • You should now be able to edit the IPv4 properties of an Ethernet adapter on your PC.
    • Now fonts would render blurry on High DPI displays. The company is cooking up a blog post where they plan to publish shortly those talks a little more in depth about their investment with High DPI in Windows 10 so watch for it.
    • Some keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Edge. Control + L or Alt + D shortcuts now got to the URL bar more reliably.
  • Here are some known issues for this build
    • If you’re using an AMD GPU you’re likely to run into frequent crashes in Microsoft Edge (still branded as “Project Spartan” in this build.) If you want to avoid that, simply go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced and change to the Slow ring to sit this one out. We’re working with our partners at AMD on new drivers which should prevent the issue and will update this post once they’re released.
    • Upgrading to this build on certain PCs may fail and roll back to the previously installed build with error 0x80070057 – 0x20007. This is a bug where too many device INFs are being migrated and hitting an internal limit. Possible workaround is to use Disk Cleanup to clean up system files and choose Device driver packages, Previous Windows installations and Temporary Windows installation files. You may also need to remove unnecessary peripherals and remove them from Device Manager and trying the upgrade again.
  • • In this build there is a bug that may cause issues with Cortana speech. If you are experiencing problems with speech recognition, or are getting errors when trying to speak to Cortana, please visit this thread on the Windows Insider Program forum for assistance in recovering from this bug.

With this build we continue to move Windows 10 closer to our public release date this summer, and you’ll see changes large and small which were based on the input and feedback of Windows Insiders. It’s been wonderful for us to see the energy and passion of the millions of people who signed up to get Insider Preview builds, send us their feedback, and connect with us in the Windows Insider Program forum and on Twitter.

What sounds like a Microsoft attack on Firefox actually applies to all default programs. Microsoft says it did this to prevent users from suffering blizzards of prompts to change defaults, and to make traditional programs work in the same was as Windows Store apps. Microsoft claims that Windows Store apps, which are locked down and sandboxed, “could not invoke this prompt”.

In the bad old days, Windows users suffered from “default wars” where programs tried to get themselves set as the default, and not all were beyond deception. Is it Beard, rather than Microsoft, “who wants to take a dramatic step backwards”?

In its May 20 blog post, Microsoft said: “We know your defaults matter to you. With Windows 10, all apps – both Classic Windows apps and Universal Windows apps – will be unable to invoke a prompt to change your defaults, only Windows. You remain in full control of your default experiences, while reducing some of the unwanted noise that multiple prompts can bring.”

Beard’s exaggerated complaint was parodied on Hacker News because of the Firefox update that changed users’ default search engine.

Animats wrote: “I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Firefox 38.0.5. Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want and replace it with the Internet experience Mozilla wants them to have.”

And later: “Sometimes we see great progress, where consumer products respect individuals and their choices. However, with the launch of Firefox 38.0.5 we are deeply disappointed to see Mozilla take such a dramatic step backwards.”

Firefox forced a search engine switch to Yahoo, and after users reinstated their preference for (usually) Google, Firefox updates repeatedly changed it back.

This was, in fact, due to a bug, for which Mozilla apologized. However, it may still look like hypocrisy. As user byuu commented: “Yeah, this is the most ‘pot calling the kettle black’ article I’ve seen all month.” He listed other complaints against Mozilla, including “no opt-out for Australis” and the bundling of Pocket and DRM web extensions.

Whether Beard is, in fact, right or wrong about the merits of the default settings, he does know that they also apply to Google and too many other companies who have so far refrained from writing whiny open letters about it.

Mozilla has announced that they are rolling out support materials and a tutorial video to help guide everyone through the process of preserving their choices on Windows 10.

“Mozilla exists to bring choice, control and opportunity for everyone. The change of defaults could still cut down on the use of Mozilla’s browser, since it could cause some people to abandon Firefox because it’s no longer the default experience on their computers.”

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