Windows 10 automatic browser blocking is 'for the children' claims Microsoft

Microsoft is playing the 'it's for the children' card; changes to Microsoft Family settings that rolled out in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update include blocking some rival browsers by default to ensure 'safer web browsing' for kids.

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When all else fails, some people play the desperate “it’s for the children” card. This time it is Microsoft, desperate for people to use its Edge browser. One of the changes Microsoft tossed into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is for the children; blocking some third-party browsers by default is supposedly meant to keep kids safer.

Although Edge is one of the most unpopular browsers, according to NetMarketShare, usage by desktop users has inched from 3.07 percent in January to 5.16 percent in August. Internet Explorer usage has steadily declined during 2016, sliding from 43.82 percent usage in January to 27.38 percent in August.

Conversely, Chrome desktop usage has grown from 35.05 percent in January to 53.97 percent in August. The combined use of Edge and IE in August (32.54 percent) was less than Chrome’s usage at the start of 2016. As Computerworld previously reported, “If losses continue at the rate of the last eight months, IE + Edge will slide under the 25% bar by the end of the year.”

Microsoft has tried various tactics to encourage the use of Edge; Microsoft Rewards, which was formerly called Bing Rewards, is the most recent. Windows 10 users can earn reward points for every hour of active browsing – up to 30 hours per month, but users must let Microsoft track their browsing and must have Bing set as the Edge browser’s default search engine.

When Microsoft rolled out the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it included changes to Microsoft Family settings which some might consider to be another tactic to encourage the use of its browsers. The changes are supposedly about safer web browsing, according to the family features FAQ.

Microsoft Family, known as Family Safety before Windows 10, allows parents to set up screen time limits and to see kids’ weekly activity. Microsoft also decided that kids can see only age-appropriate content in the Windows Store. Additionally, parents using Microsoft Family website blocking can be immediately notified when kids attempt to surf to a blocked website. Basically if parents didn’t include a site on the allowed list, it will be blocked.

And, for the children’s sake of course, Microsoft decided to block some third-party browsers by default.

Under “safer web browsing,” Microsoft’s FAQ states:

Most commonly used browsers don't have web filtering. To keep your children safer, we'll automatically block these browsers on their devices. You can always choose to allow your child to use other browsers.

Notice that Microsoft didn’t name any specific browser competitors, but analysis by NetMarketShare shows Safari and “others” as the only browsers with less desktop usage than Edge. In other words, it seems like the popular browsers Chrome and Firefox would be considered among the “most commonly used browsers.”

Even more aggravating, Microsoft enabled browser blocking by default. Nice try, Redmond, but it’s doubtful the “for the children” card and automatic browser blocking will result in any significant usage boost to either Edge or IE.

Parents using Microsoft Family can opt to whitelist browsers; keeping your kids safe online is one thing, but forcing them to use a wretched browser just seems to be mean.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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