Written on 14 Jul 2017 − last updated on 27 Dec 2017.
What do you get when you search for ‘Firefox’ in a new Windows 10 installation?
A big fat ad for Microsoft Edge:
This is a full-screen screenshot on a 1920×1080 screen (right-click and select ‘view image’ for the full size). Firefox is juts barely visible at the bottom.
It doesn’t end there, Microsoft also “helpfully” displays a warning that this file “could harm your computer”:
According to Microsoft, “The SmartScreen Application Reputation service checks the reputation of a file”, and should display this only for files with no significant reputation. Somehow I find it hard to believe that the Firefox installer fits this bill…
Wait, there’s more! When changing the default browser from Edge to Firefox we get yet another ad, baked right in to the settings screen:
Other people – who have used Windows 10 for more than the ten minutes I used it – have been treated to more anti-Firefox ads:
Oh, and Microsoft also banned browsers from its Windows Store.
It doesn’t end with Microsoft. For years Google displayed a Chrome advertisements on Google search (although it looks like they have stopped doing it now). And what about enabling the ‘Do Not Track’ header in Chrome?
I’m sure that the fact that Google has a significant interest in tracking the hell out of everyone on the internet is purely coincidental, as is Google banning extensions that disrupt its business model.
Chrome’s new ad blocker (or ‘ad filter’ as they call it) is also rather suspect. We now have Google – whose primary revenue comes in through ads – determining what ads you get to see. How often do you think it will filter Google ads?
These concerns are hardly new; the Microsoft browser bundling was a subject of much complaining and litigation in the past leading to the (in)famous BrowserChoice.eu. Whether that was a good decision or not is up for grabs, but baking full-page ads and warnings in your products strikes me as ethically dubious at best.
I haven’t used Windows – or any Microsoft product – in years, but it looks like
it’s still the same old crap. Just booting Windows also blew away my
bootloader by the way. My ten-minute stint with Microsoft Windows is over.
All of this makes paying the Microsoft tax on my ThinkPad even more sour…
Microsoft was (is) perceived as a monopoly; I suspect that a strong reason that Google isn’t by many people because you don’t directly pay for their products. Search, Gmail, Chrome: it’s all free of charge. Some of it (like Chromium and Android) is even (partly) Open Source (or ‘Free Software’, if you prefer). This is kind of neat, but seems to do little to protect most people’s actual freedoms.