Ever since Microsoft began the ramp for Windows 10, there’s been an unpleasant aspect to how the company has “marketed” the operating system. Microsoft’s “Get Windows 10” tool began as a helpful notification to let you know when your PC was approved for upgrading and transformed over the course of a year into malware that broke its own UI conventions and deliberately obfuscated user attempts to delay or avoid the upgrade. Eventually, even Microsoft acknowledged that it had gone too far with pushing people to upgrade to the OS.
But the push never really stopped. Windows 10 updates have reset advertising preferences and other defaults. Microsoft introduced ads on the lock screen, ads within File Explorer, ads that show when you use Chrome, and ads for Edge that pop up within Windows 10. With nearly every update (and definitely every year), Microsoft has increased the ways in which Windows 10 begs you to use Windows 10. Now, with the October 2018 update, Microsoft is once again introducing new ways for its operating system to beg you to use the Garbage Browser Officially Known as Edge.
As Thurrot.com notes, visit and download Chrome, and you’re greeted with the above. There is absolutely no justification for this. Chrome is not malware. There is no valid reason for Microsoft to be warning me about a Chrome download, and the use of the word “warning” is Redmond’s language, not mine.
Furthermore, some of the defaults around how apps are delivered to your PC have changed. Under Settings > Apps, you used to have the option to “Allow apps from anywhere (Default),” “Warn before installing apps from outside the Store”, and “Allow apps from the Store only.” The new options are “Turn off app recommendations,” “Show me app recommendations (Default),” “Warn me before installing apps from outside the Store,” and “Allow apps from the Store only.”
Microsoft has changed the default from “Allow me to install apps from anywhere,” to “Show me app recommendations.” What that means is that the company has given it permission to annoy you with warnings — warnings — that you might be using a piece of software that you intended to use.
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I use Edge every single day. It serves as my “stock” browser — I don’t have any add-ons or extensions installed and I use it for certain email accounts and for chatting in Slack. It’s the browser I use the least for general browsing, yet simultaneously the browser I am constantly killing and restarting due to inappropriate resource utilization, slow system response, and general hangs.
In Chrome, if you set your search engine to Bing and then right-click some selected text on a web page, the right-click window will ask if you wish to search Bing for this text string. In Edge, if you perform the same action with Google as your default search engine, you can ask Bing. If you perform the same action with DuckDuckGo as your search engine, you can ask Bing. Then, instead of opening the new results in a window, you’ll get a useless, badly-formatted sidebar that you have to scroll to the bottom of and then manually click to open in a new window. There is no way to make this the default behavior. There is no way to tell Edge that you’d like to use a different search engine. Three years after launch, Edge still feels like it isn’t finished baking yet. Yes, it’s power-efficient. Yes, it can stream video at higher fidelity than other browsers. It might even deserve to be the first browser you reach for when battery life is at a premium, but Microsoft’s constant attempts to shove me towards a browser that works least well out of all the browsers on my system is unwelcome and intrusive.
Since being polite and hoping Redmond would get the message obviously doesn’t work, let me speak plainly. Microsoft, this is exactly how you drive customers away. Inventing new ways to give yourself permission to annoy users isn’t innovative or helpful. It does not encourage individuals to see Windows 10 as an OS that they want to use.
You are training your end users to expect that with each new Windows release, they must spend time digging through settings to find all the things you stealthily changed and shut them off again. This kind of subterfuge encourages customers to view the update process as fundamentally adversarial, because it requires us to spend time shutting things off rather than giving them a chance to function as intended. It encourages end users to believe the worst about your company’s practices and behaviors. When Microsoft chose to make Windows 10’s upgrade advisor pushier and more aggressive, it didn’t just make people angry, it fed a narrative of distrust and deceit, priming people to believe that MS wanted them to use Windows 10 so it could collect and monetize data based on how individuals use their computers. If you ever wonder why people harbor such suspicion towards Microsoft, take a look in the mirror. It’s because you’ve taught them to. You’ve taught them to expect that feature updates will include “features” no one asked for that have to be disabled in order to restore a machine to the proper order, where “proper order” is defined as “My computer does not nag me to install software that I do not want, did not ask for, and will not use.”
We know that Microsoft Edge’s uptake sucks. We know nobody uses the Microsoft Store. We know you’re experimenting with new ways to boost discoverability and yes, for the record, we hate it when Google spits the same “You could be using Chrome!” messages when you visit Google on a non-Chrome browser. But that’s the difference. Chrome is a browser. Windows 10 is the underlying operating system. Burying your advertising hooks directly into the OS and using them this way feels like having the contractor who built your house constantly plastering your windows with advertisements for his interior decorating company. It’s invasive, intrusive, unwanted, and you’re poisoning your reservoirs of consumer goodwill.
If you actually care about the long-term health of the Windows ecosystem or the PC market, you’ll stop pursuing these consumer-hostile attacks on user choice. It would be one thing if Edge represented any kind of great alternative to Firefox and Chrome. Instead, it’s a great alternative to Internet Explorer 6 or Netscape Communicator 4. If that comparison seems unfair — and it should — maybe pay a little attention to why people are angry enough to be making it rather than focusing on how Edge is not literally the third-worst browser ever built. The question Microsoft should be asking is, “Why are people talking about how our operating system has been harmed by our latest update rather than improved?”
Stop the bullshit FUD-based advertising. It demeans you and insults both your product and your users. We don’t need your “warnings.” Act like a Fortune 500 company, not a whining child.
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