microsoft does a right thing

| 8 Comments

The Microsoft Internet Explorer team has fixed, albeit a bit late, the IE 8 set-up to not trick or confuse people into making IE 8 their default browser.

The problem was that most Windows users were getting a prompt from Windows Update to get the new IE 8 and that new version was causing a lot of people to accidentally replace their current default browser with IE 8 because "express settings" which most people were opting for looked like the best way to complete the setup, included the action of undoing the user's default browser choice.

Updating your Windows software, even if you don't use it regularly, is a good thing because some "broken" Windows apps will call programs like IE directly instead of the default browser. Having old and insecure versions of IE on your system is actually dangerous so I'm glad people are upgrading.

But, upgrading non-default and rarely used software shouldn't have the side-effect of undoing user choice. Microsoft's update process was doing just that. Microsoft is taking a good step to remedy this and that's a good thing.

Maybe more important than the Windows Update for XP and Vista users is that Microsoft has indicated that this will also be fixed for people upgrading their OS to Windows 7. Until now, it had appeared that people upgrading to Windows 7 were also going to be misled into accidentally replacing their current default browser with IE 8.

Microsoft is a convicted monopolist in the US and is facing serious anti-competition allegations in the EU and because of that they have to be a lot more careful about using their status as OS provider to undo user choice like this. They're a bit late on this for the IE 8 roll-out, which has been going on for several months now, but I'm glad they're getting it fixed before Windows 7.

8 Comments

Heh, so THAT'S what happened... I upgraded my IE (that my wife uses exclusively) browser and when I launched Firefox, it said it wasn't the default browser... which is has been for the 2 years since I switched. I didn't think too much of it... but now I know why!

Despite obvious reasons for them doing this, I'm glad that they did it. I don't applaud them on it though because they shouldn't have been doing it in the first place. So it isn't as if Microsoft has done something grand and because they care about their consumers, it's because they got caught at being sneaky.

I do like the idea that they explicitly ask if you want IE as the default browser as oppose to a checkbox which is checked by default on a page that you hit the 'next' button on. Asa, make no mistake I like Firefox a lot, but I recently switched to Chrome as my default browser and I was "tricked" by the Firefox 3.5 installer since I ran through the installer hitting next through the pages without looking in detail at every choice. Its the same argument you are making against IE, I do not think that it was obvious enough in the Firefox isntaler that it is getting set. Why don't you ask the folks at Mozilla to fix the Firefox installer to make it more obvious.

Jeff, Firefox doesn't hide the option behind a "express settings" label. The text is quite clear. When you take the action to seek out Firefox at the Mozilla website, download it, and run the Firefox installer, you're clearly presented with the option to make Firefox the default browser. That's very different than what's going on with these Windows Updates that are sneaking IE back into default status.

When you download Firefox, you're taking an action to get a new browser. When Windows prompts you to make security updates, you're not trying to get a new browser. There's a big difference between those two interactions.

Here's another way of looking at it. If you're an IE user -- never using Firefox, you'll never get an out of the blue prompt to get the latest Firefox version and when you agree to get that security update Firefox tricks you into making it the default. However, if you're a Firefox user, you did get an out of the blue Windows update prompt (or several) to upgrade to a more secure version of the never used IE browser and during that process IE sneakily make itself the default.

Microsoft is fixing that and that's a good thing. They should not be using their Windows monopoly and the Windows Update distribution mechanism that comes with that Windows monopoly to undo the users' default browser choice.

- A

Asa, good points all around. I am not debating that using Windows Update to distribute new software is a bad idea. I think that is even worse on the Apple side of things where software you never even had is on the list of updates. The point that I was trying to get at was that in my opinion (whatever thats worth) the default browser choice on the Firefox installer is also non-obvious and I took an action to set it as the default since it was checked by default when I did not mean to, and I am a pretty technically minded person.

Given that personal experience, it did strike me a bit odd when you stated that the IE default browser choice is hidden. The installers for both Firefox and IE have the same issue to me, default browser choice is checked by default if I were to just click 'next' through the wizard. Atleast IE will now set up a page where a user must choose yes or no with nothing marked by default. If you don't think that having default browser checked by default in the Firefox installer is an issue then thats fine, but (to me) it does cut into the argument that you are making that the default browser choice is hidden.

Despite the fact that the box is checked by default in the installer to make Firefox the default browser, I've always gotten a prompt stating, "Firefox is not currently set as your default browser. Would you like to make it your default browser". when first launching Firefox after a new install or after creating a new profile.
I'm curious as to why you didn't get the same prompt.

Ken: to me, that sounds like another program overriding the default browser pref. I remember Safari used to do this (don't know if that changed).

I have just re-installed Firefox after removing it because it had caught a re-direction virus. I accidentally made it my default at which point Chrome became severly broken - the spanner, etc does nothing, the back button opens a new tab and when I click on the new tab it promptly closes. If I didn't know better, I'd say this was down to skullduggery.

I have tried re-installing Chrome to no avail but I did not inistall it first so I might try that next. The concept of keeing all your setting across version is laudable but should be optional as, if they get corrupted (as they clearly have), I want a fresh new set of defaults.

Brian

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