Mozilla CEO Slams Microsoft over Windows 10 Browser Default
By Shirley Siluk / Top Tech News. Updated July 31, 2015.
In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard (pictured) said it's "disturbing" that the new Windows 10 operating system makes it difficult for users to choose anything but Microsoft's Edge as their default browser. Beard is asking Microsoft to reconsider its approach and make user settings with Windows 10 more obvious and intuitive to manage.
Beard, whose organization develops the Firefox Web browser, said Mozilla contacted Microsoft about its concerns after trying out pre-release versions of Windows 10. That outreach "didn't result in any meaningful progress," he noted, resulting in his decision to publish the open letter to Nadella.
Among the many updates delivered along with Windows 10, which launched on Wednesday, is the debut of Edge, Microsoft's successor to its aging Internet Explorer browser. Installing Windows 10 automatically sets Edge as a user's default browser.
We reached out to Microsoft to get the company's response to Beard's criticism. "We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade," a Microsoft spokesperson told us. "During the upgrade, consumers have the choice to set defaults, including for Web browsing. Following the upgrade, they can easily choose the default browser of their choice. As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so."
'A Dramatic Step Backwards'
"Sometimes we see great progress, where consumer products respect individuals and their choices," Beard noted in his letter. "However, with the launch of Windows 10 we are deeply disappointed to see Microsoft take such a dramatic step backwards."
The new OS, "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," he said in the letter.
When Windows 10 launched, Mozilla published a guide on how to reset the operating system's default settings to choose Firefox over Edge. Users who open Firefox for the first time after installing Windows 10 will, as usual, see a prompt asking whether they want to use Firefox as their default browser. After that, however, Windows' default apps screen shows only one browser choice for some users: Edge.
"It may not be intuitive, but you need to click on the Microsoft Edge logo to open the window that will let you choose another Web browser as your default," Mark Mayo, head of Mozilla's cloud services, noted in the how-to guide. After that, users should then see a choose-app screen that enables them to click on one of several browser options, including Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer or Edge.
The nature of the default browser choice process with Windows 10 "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," Beard said in his letter to Microsoft. "It's confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost."
Barbara Chaparro, director of the Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University, told us she hasn't yet had a chance to install or explore Windows 10. In general, however, she said that best practices for new software should make default choices straightforward.
"The install process should ask the user whether they want to keep their default browser or use Edge instead," Chaparro said. "Any time you take that control away, there will be some dissatisfied users."
To ensure that its browser works well with Windows 10, Mozilla is making a number of updates to its next build of Firefox, according to Mayo.
"We're taking visual cues from style changes appearing in Windows 10 and we're also reducing the overall browser UI footprint to increase space for viewing the Web," he said. Users can currently download Firefox Beta to test those changes, he added, A general release of the browser will be coming soon, he said.