In a recent Microsoft 365 Message Center announcement, the tech giant revealed that web links in Outlook for Windows and, in the future, Microsoft Teams, will open in Microsoft Edge, regardless of the user’s default browser settings. This decision has sparked controversy among users, as it appears to contradict Microsoft’s earlier commitment to respect user choices and lead by example with its first-party products
According to the announcement, the new feature aims to increase productivity by enabling Outlook for Windows users to view email and web links side-by-side using Microsoft Edge. A similar experience is set to arrive in Teams. However, this change has been met with backlash, as it disregards the default browser preferences set by users in Windows.
The message reads:
M365 Message Center ID: MC548092
Web links in Outlook for Windows to open side- by-side with email in Microsoft Edge; Teams experience to follow
To help increase productivity while working online, web links from Azure Active Directory (AAD) accounts and Microsoft (SA) accounts in the Outlook for Windows app open in Microsoft Edge as a single view showing the opened link side-by-side with the email it came from. The web link will open in Microsoft Edge as a new tab and the email will open next to it in the Edge sidebar so users can easily reference the opened link and the email side-by-side without switching back and forth between apps.
Note: Web links from all accounts in the Outlook for Windows app will open in Microsoft Edge with this change, but the side-by-side experience will not be available for non-AAD or non-SA accounts at this time.
Note: This change does not affect the default browser setting in Windows. In the future, a similar experience will arrive in Teams with web links from chats opening side-by-side with those chats in Microsoft Edge. The policy described below will manage the change as both apps and the chosen policy option will apply to both apps.
When will this affect your organization:
Outlook for Windows: This change will begin rolling out 30 days after the announcement.
Teams: This change will happen at a future date and will be preceded by a separate communication notifying you of its timeline.
To manage these changes, configure the “Choose which browser opens web links” policy available today using the guidance for 203 and is also available as part of the administration module. This policy does not change the default browsing behavior.
Note: Managing this change by policy requires an Office 365 administrator. If your organization uses a different management system, you will need to manage this change individually. For more information on how users will be able to manage this change individually, please see the “What you need to do to prepare” section.
How this will affect your organization:
Web links from the Outlook for Windows app will open side-by-side with the email in Microsoft Edge so users can easily reference the link and email without switching back and forth between apps. The email will open in the Outlook app in the Edge sidebar. Links will open in Microsoft Edge even if it is not the system default browser in Windows. Only links set to open via a web browser are affected. Links that are set to open in a client app within Outlook itself will continue to do so.
User experiences will vary by policy configurations; please see the next section. Web links from all accounts in the Outlook for Windows app will open in Microsoft Edge, but the side-by-side experience is not available for non-AAD or non-SA accounts, which will not receive the change at this time.
What you need to do to prepare: To manage this change, you will need to configure the “Choose which browser opens web links” policy within 30 days of this communication. You will be able to configure this policy at any point.
The “Choose which browser opens web links” policy is available today using the Cloud Policy for Microsoft (formerly known as the Office Cloud Policy Service). The policy is also available as part of the administrative Template 163 package.
To open web links from the Outlook for Windows app using the system default browser (current default behavior): Enable the policy and select “System default browser” from the policy options. Users will not be able to disable or change this setting.
To open web links from the Outlook for Windows app using Microsoft Edge as the default browser behavior: Enable the policy and select “Microsoft Edge” from the policy options. Users will not be able to disable or change this setting. Users will receive a notification of this change on the first occurrence.
To allow users to manage the change: Disable the policy or leave the policy unconfigured. Please note that the future default behavior for web links will be to open in Microsoft Edge. Users will see a notification informing them of this change.
A frustrated Reddit user, paulanerspezi, expressed their disappointment by highlighting Microsoft’s earlier claim from March 17, 2023, where the company had committed to ensuring that users are in control of their default applications, including their default browser. By forcing web links to open in Microsoft Edge, it seems that Microsoft is not living up to its promise of respecting user choices and leading by example.
In their earlier statement, Microsoft had announced new features that would provide a consistent experience across all apps and confirmed that Microsoft apps would use the same common supported methods for pinning and defaults. The company had also stated that they would soon introduce a new Settings deep link URI for applications to take users directly to the appropriate location in Settings for changing their defaults.
Despite the earlier commitment to empowering users and developers, Microsoft’s latest move to force web links to open in Edge has raised concerns about the company’s true intentions. Users and industry observers alike will be closely monitoring any further developments and potential changes in Microsoft’s approach to user preferences and default settings.