Looks like Microsoft’s Windows 10 debut is a hit: The new version of the operating system, which launched Wednesday, now powers more than 14 million devices, the company says.
But not everyone is thrilled with the new software. In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard called out Windows 10 for foisting the company’s own media-playback apps and Edge Web browser.
The latter is obviously a sore spot for the Firefox maker, but the whole scenario could be a grave concern for other third-party developers. Although technically users can preserve their choices for default apps, Microsoft deemphasized those settings—which means developers of music or video apps or alternative Web browsers might see user figures drop.
Getting Edgy About Microsoft’s Tactics
The “express” settings for Windows 10 upgrades available to Windows 7 or 8 users essentially wipes out user defaults and file associations, leaving behind Microsoft’s own applications.
Beard considers that “disturbing”—disturbing enough that Mozilla even reached out to Microsoft to discuss this privately, to no avail. Now Beard is blasting Nadella for designing Windows 10 “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.”
The new operating system doesn’t entirely obliterate people’s preferences, and Beard acknowledges that users can still preserve their settings. But he also points out that the controls for that aren’t obvious or straightforward. In older versions of Windows, browsers called up a pop-up window asking if you’d like to make them the default for Web browsing. It only took one click to change that setting.
Now if people want to save their own default apps, they have to click around and go through various screens in the Windows Control Panel to get there. Beard writes:
It now 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. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost….
Sometimes we see great progress, where consumer products respect individuals and their choices. However, with the launch of Windows 10 we are deeply disappointed to see Microsoft take such a dramatic step backwards.
That last comment likely refers to a “step backwards” in time, all the way back to the year 2000, when the United States won an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft over—you guessed it—predatory behavior, specifically by limiting browser choices.
Mozilla Wants Microsoft To Hit Undo
Mozilla’s role as a Microsoft critic comes as no surprise. Netscape, the company which gave birth to Mozilla as an open-source project, was considered a key victim in the antitrust case. As for the Firefox browser, it became known as a champion of freedom, unshackling Windows users from the bloated and inefficient Internet Explorer 6.
Lately, Firefox has seen a drastic decline in its browser market share, and Mozilla is fighting to claw its way back. On its own, Microsoft’s new (and well-made) Edge browser could pose a threat. Combined with the Windows maker’s strong-arm tactics, the whole scenario starts to conjure some déjà vu.
Beyond Mozilla, the approach could affect various developers and their users. Microsoft’s defaults also extend to photo, video, and music apps. It’s a bizarre move for a company that has tried very hard to court developers.
Microsoft explained itself by invoking the simplicity argument: “We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade.”
Windows 8 was lambasted for being a hot mess of confusion and complication. Microsoft may be overcorrecting with the Windows 10 upgrade process, though it obviously (and ironically) subjects people to even more complexity just to preserve their settings.
At least the company offered one ray of light: It said it would make improvements based on user feedback. However vague that promise is, Mozilla aims to put it to the test.
In addition to offering a tutorial on changing the default browser, the organization is spearheading a “Ctrl-Z” campaign on Twitter. (In Windows, the control+Z keystroke combination triggers the “undo” command.) A prefilled form lets people easily tweet out the following: “Hey @Microsoft, it’s not too late to hit Ctrl+Z. Bring back user choice in #Windows10.”
In other words, even if this is a redo of Microsoft’s earlier tactics, there’s still time to undo it.
Screenshot courtesy of Mozilla; all other photos by ReadWrite