Mozilla slams Microsoft for using dark patterns to drive Windows users toward Edge

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Mozilla connected Thursday accused Microsoft of forcing its Edge browser down nan throats of Windows users done "dark patterns" – creation elements geared to push group towards definite decisions.

In a report [PDF] titled, "Over nan Edge: How Microsoft's Design Tactics Compromise Free Browser Choice", nan nationalist use browser org argues that Windows users are encouraged to usage Microsoft Edge and deterred from different options.

Mozilla has made akin claims earlier – notably successful its September 2022 "Five Walled Gardens" report and its "Platform Tilt" report past month. Those reports covered wider competitory barriers coming successful platforms operated by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

"Over nan Edge" focuses specifically connected Microsoft Edge and alleges manipulative creation patterns – sometimes referred to arsenic "dark patterns" aliases "deceptive patterns" – that push group towards a preferred result erstwhile presented pinch a prime successful a ocular interface. Other tech operators, specified arsenic Amazon, person besides been accused of utilizing acheronian shape designs – which persist, contempt laws aimed astatine limiting specified trickery.

"Windows users everywhere, particularly successful nan remainder of nan world, proceed to person their choices inhibited, overridden and undermined by Microsoft's usage of harmful design," Mozilla wrote successful a station astir its report. "Regulatory action astir nan world is needed to reconstruct browser prime and title crossed each of nan awesome platforms."

The salient regulatory action present is Europe's Digital Markets Act (DMA), a group of rules intended to beforehand adjacent title crossed nan bloc. Mozilla cites nan implementation of nan DMA – enforcement is group to statesman successful March – arsenic a logic to dream that nan barriers to browser title will travel down.

"However, moreover wherever location is activity successful nan correct direction, improvements person been incomplete and are grudgingly offered only successful markets wherever regulators person forced level owners to make changes to respect browser choice," nan browser biz lamented, citing Apple's determination only to allow replacement browser engines successful nan EU.

The Register asked Mozilla whether its willingness to situation title concerns has accrued lately.

"Our position astir adjacent and unfastened title has not changed," a Mozilla spokesperson replied. "However, location is an accrued request to understand and place immoderate of nan method aspects related to authorities for illustration nan DMA which is why we commissioned nan independent research."

  • Brit watchdog thinks Google's tweaked Privacy Sandbox still isn't cricket
  • Microsoft Edge ignores personification wishes, slurps tabs from Chrome without permission
  • Microsoft's plucky challengers, Bing and Edge, mightiness summation DMA exemptions
  • Windows 11 incapable to flight nan protector of Windows 10

Mozilla's study allows that developers for illustration Microsoft should beryllium capable to beforehand their wares – provided they do truthful without techniques that unreality users' choices. The nonprofit package location argues that users, without coercion, manipulation, aliases deception, should beryllium capable to: download and instal immoderate alternative, morganatic browser; group that browser arsenic their default; and usage their chosen browser connected an ongoing basis.

The study defines various manipulative interface patterns for illustration "Confirmshaming", "Forced Action", "Visual Interference", and "Disguised Ads."

As an illustration of nan last, it cites nan measurement that Edge has injected ads for Microsoft's browser into nan Chrome download page connected Google's website.

Screenshot of Microsoft Edge injected advertisement during Chrome download

Screenshot from Over nan Edge study of Microsoft Edge injected advertisement during Chrome download – Click to enlarge

Mozilla besides condemns nan measurement that Microsoft's Bing hunt motor injects ads for Edge successful consequence to a hunt for a rival browser for illustration Safari aliases Vivaldi.

"The connection appears successful a non-standard format that we person ne'er observed successful immoderate different Bing ad," Mozilla's doc notes, adding that it resembles "the Windows personification interface, which nan personification whitethorn further construe arsenic a marker of authority and legitimacy."

"With this connection Microsoft is taking advantage of nan spot gained by their custodial domiciled arsenic OS supplier and utilizing it to misdirect users, implying that compliance is basal for information reasons," nan study alleges. "A personification whitethorn reasonably reason therefore, that this connection is immoderate benignant of strategy notification aliases strategy warning."

Another shape nan study identifies is called "Obstruction": "In nan Windows 11 Settings app, erstwhile a personification navigates to nan 'Default apps' page for a web browser (eg Apps > Default apps > Firefox), they are shown a fastener astatine nan apical of nan page allowing them to group that browser arsenic their default. However, aft nan personification clicks this button, galore record extensions and nexus types are near pinch nan erstwhile default unchanged."

The study concludes: "We person recovered that Microsoft uses a number of harmful designs to power users into utilizing nan Edge browser. In our view, these designs coerce, manipulate, aliases deceive users and are truthful unjustifiable, pinch nan imaginable to origin a assortment of consumer, society, and marketplace harms. Microsoft should extremity utilizing these techniques immediately."

Microsoft did not instantly respond to a petition for comment. ®