Back in 2017, Daniel Aleksandersen created a free helper application called EdgeDeflector to counter behavioral changes Microsoft made in the way Windows handles mouse clicks on certain web links.
https://links get handled by whatever default browser is set for the system in question. But there are ways to register a custom protocol handler, for operating systems and web browsers, that defines the scheme to access a given resource (URI).
Microsoft did just that when it created the microsoft-edge: URI scheme. By prefixing certain links as
https://example.com, the company can tell Windows to use Edge to render example.com instead of the system’s default browser.
Microsoft is not doing this for all web links – it hasn’t completely rejected browser choice. It applies the
microsoft-edge://protocol to Windows 10 services like News and Interest, Widgets in Windows 11, various help links in the Settings app, search links from the Start menu, Cortana links, and links sent from paired Android devices. Clicking on these links will normally open in Edge regardless of the default browser setting.
microsoft-edge://protocol is used, EdgeDeflector intercepts the protocol mapping to force affected links to open in the user’s default browser like regular
https://links. That allows users to override Microsoft and steer links to their chosen browsers.
This approach has proven to be a popular one: Brave and Firefox recently implemented their own
microsoft-edge://URI scheme interception code to counter Microsoft’s efforts to force
microsoft-edge://links into its Edge browser.
This is on top of Microsoft making it tedious to change the default browser on Windows 11 from Edge: in the system settings, you have to navigate to Apps, then Default apps, find your preferred installed browser, and then assign all the link and file types you need to that browser, clicking through the extra dialog boxes Windows throws at you. Your preferred browser may be able to offer a shortcut through this process when you install it or tell it to make it your default.