Last night, an update was sent out to Windows 10 ensuring “Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box”. This update broke all Cortana search redirection solutions, including Chrometana.
Microsoft has revoked the user’s ability to choose what browser is launched by Cortana, enforcing Bing as the search engine used by Cortana queries. They claim this is done in the interest of “Protecting the Integrated Search Experience in Windows 10”, as “some software programs circumvent the design of Windows 10 and redirect you to search providers that were not designed to work with Cortana”. Chrometana is one of these software programs.
It’s been a good bit since Microsoft used the integration argument to justify monopolistic actions. In 1998, United States v. Microsoft Corporation was initiated over Microsoft’s choice to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows. This case focused largely on the Windows application programming interface (API) preferring Microsoft’s browser to other browsers. APIs provide software developers with the tools necessary to create software within software, such as a web browser within Windows.
While NetScape believed there was an exclusive API for Internet Explorer in Windows, Microsoft’s defense claimed that the merge of IE and Windows was “the result of innovation and competition”. The courts disagreed with Microsoft, reaching a settlement that forced them to share the API used for Internet Explorer.
18 years later, Microsoft is again taking part in anti-consumer monopolistic practices. Competition has enabled other web browsers and search engines to greatly overshadow Microsoft Edge and Bing. On launch, Windows 10 enforced Bing with Cortana, but allowed for Cortana to work with other web browsers. Due to the success of redirection solutions like Chrometana (and Google’s implementation of core Chrometana features in the latest Chrome beta), Microsoft restricted Cortana to only work with Microsoft Edge.
The Windows Experience blog post about this update explicitly states “Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box”. This gives the Edge browser an exclusive interface within Windows, very similar to the APIs that Microsoft was forced to open during their settlement in 2001.
The consumers have already spoken, Microsoft, and they want to choose their own browser. Chrometana alone has over half a million installations, and their desire for choice can be seen in the 100+ 5-star reviews that we’ve received on the Chrome Web Store.
History has shown similar decisions working out poorly for Microsoft. The anti-consumer practices demonstrated in this Windows update are possibly illegal, and should be revoked.
For the time being, Chrometana is broken and all development is halted. We don’t forsee a simple solution to the change Microsoft introduced yesterday, but we will be working hard to try and find a technical workaround.