Breaking Tech Industry news from the top sources
Every version of Windows 10 has included some amount of built-in promotion for Microsoft’s Edge browser. The forthcoming major update, due to ship some time in October, includes a new screen, shown above, that will appear if you run the installers for Chrome or Firefox. The advertisement is on by default (though it can be disabled by following the “Open settings” link) and exists in addition to the smaller messages that appear when you actually run third-party browsers for the first time.
Most people will not see this message (if they’re upgrading an existing Windows 10 machine and, hence, already have the non-Microsoft browser of their choosing installed) or may see it once (if they’re installing a non-Microsoft browser on a fresh installation), and then, clicking “install anyway” does what you’d expect; the third-party browsers install, can be configured as the default browser, and run normally just as they always did.
Microsoft’s decision to promote Edge within the operating system has prompted some amount of outrage and anger among certain kinds of Windows users and certain segments of the tech press. I struggle to believe that this is a problem that regular Windows users are suffering—it seems more likely to me that they either don’t notice the promotions at all or just click through them to dismiss them without ever really considering what they say—but some users do notice and aren’t impressed. Because, of course these users know Edge exists; they’re explicitly choosing not to use it. Why is Microsoft being so invasive and telling them something that they already know and don’t care about?
This kind of promotion isn’t unique to Microsoft, of course. Use Edge with any Google property and you’ll get asked—repeatedly—to give Chrome a spin. As if we lived under a rock and didn’t know that Chrome existed! YouTube, both on the Web and in the Android app, is forever asking me to subscribe to YouTube Red (or some other paid service; I don’t actually remember exactly which one, because I am so accustomed to just dismissing the damn message without actually reading it). I’m pretty sure even Apple has done things to try to coax me into using iCloud or its music service.
And these companies are going to continue to do this kind of thing because, guess what, it works. Sometimes people will subscribe to YouTube Red. Sometimes they’ll think, “OK, I’ll give Edge a shot and see if I like it.” Sometimes they’ll be inspired to try Chrome. These companies wouldn’t risk the annoyance factor if it didn’t pay off. But it does. These companies love nothing more than collecting usage data; you can bet that they’re only doing this because they’re seeing an upside to it.
It’s not even surprising that these things work. That’s because for a lot of people these promotions are actually telling them something they don’t know. They don’t know that the blue “e” is no longer the reviled Internet Explorer of old, the one that they know they shouldn’t use because their much more knowledgeable family member told them not to use it. They don’t know that YouTube has subscription services that kill the ads and add extra features. Some of them might not even know that the blue “e” isn’t, in fact, the only way to get on the Internet—they might not know that Chrome or Firefox exist. What knowledgeable users see as annoying nagging is, for other users, fresh and new information.
Some things that Microsoft has done in Windows 10 are pretty gross; the promotion of Candy Crush in the Start menu, for example, feels dirty in the way that OEM-bundled crapware feels dirty: money is changing hands there in a way that doesn’t do anything to benefit the end user. But pointing out that there’s an actually pretty decent built-in browser? Telling users that they don’t need to install Adobe Reader (and hence expand their attack surface area) just to read some PDFs? This is harmless, and for many people, it’s informative. And until and unless it stops working, power users and press can complain all they like; the promotions aren’t going to go away.