Microsoft will soon let Windows 11 users in the European Economic Area (EEA) disable its Bing web search, remove Microsoft Edge, and even add custom web search providers — including Google if it’s willing to build one — into its Windows Search interface.
All of these Windows 11 changes are part of key tweaks that Microsoft has to make to its operating system to comply with the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act, which comes into effect in March 2024. Microsoft will be required to meet a slew of interoperability and competition rules, including allowing users “to easily un-install pre-installed apps or change default settings on operating systems, virtual assistants, or web browsers that steer them to the products and services of the gatekeeper and provide choice screens for key services.”
Alongside clearly marking which apps are system components in Windows 11, Microsoft is also responding by adding the ability to uninstall the following apps:
- Web Search from Microsoft Bing, in the EEA
- Microsoft Edge, in the EEA
Only Windows 11 users in the EEA will be able to fully remove Microsoft Edge and the Bing-powered web search from Windows Search. Microsoft could easily extend this to all Windows 11 users, but it’s limiting this extra functionality to EEA markets to comply with the rules. “Windows uses the region chosen by the customer during device setup to identify if the PC is in the EEA,” explains Microsoft in a blog post. “Once chosen in device setup, the region used for DMA compliance can only be changed by resetting the PC.”
In EEA markets — which includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway — Windows 11 users will also get access to new interoperability features for feeds in the Windows Widgets board and web search in Windows Search. This will allow search providers like Google to extend the main Windows Search interface with their own custom web searches.
Microsoft will allow EEA machines to remove the Bing results, so Google could provide its own search results here and effectively become the default if a user has uninstalled Bing. “If the user has more than one search provider installed, Windows Search will show the last one used when opened,” explains Aaron Grady, partner group product manager for Windows, in a statement to The Verge.
We had hoped Microsoft would finally stop forcing Windows 11 users in Europe into Edge if they clicked a link from the Windows Widgets panel or from search results, but Microsoft appears to have changed exactly how it’s implementing this. The software maker previously said it would start testing a change to Windows 11 that would see “Windows system components use the default browser to open links” in EEA markets, but that change never appeared in Windows Insider builds.
“In the EEA, Windows will always use the customers’ configured app default settings for link and file types, including industry standard browser link types (http, https),” says Microsoft. “Apps choose how to open content on Windows, and some Microsoft apps will choose to open web content in Microsoft Edge.”
Microsoft considers Bing web search an app and will default to opening results in Microsoft Edge in the EEA. “We would expect that when other search providers install, they will similarly decide what app to launch, whether it be a browser, search app or the systems default browser, when search results are clicked,” explains Grady.
Microsoft is starting to test these new changes to Windows 11 in the Release Preview version of the OS today, with plans to preview additional changes to Windows 10 in a Release Preview test “at a later date.” Both operating systems will be updated to be compliant with the EU’s Digital Markets Act by March 6th, 2024.