After outcry, Microsoft presses pause on unsolicited Windows 10 web app installs

Microsoft Windows 10

The company says part of it was a bug

On Saturday, I pointed out how Microsoft force-restarting Windows 10 computers to install unwanted web apps was the latest proof you don’t own your own Windows PC. Today, the company says it was at least partly a mistake — and will be pausing the “migration” that brought web apps to your Start Menu this way.

Originally, Microsoft tells The Verge, the idea was that any website you pinned to the Start Menu would launch in Microsoft Edge, and it simply intended to turn those shortcuts into more visible tiles now. But — in what Microsoft is calling a bug — the change also turned its existing Microsoft Office web shortcuts into PWA web apps as well. That’s something you can normally do from inside the Edge browser, but not something that would happen by itself.

Microsoft says it’s actually been pinning Office web shortcuts to the Start Menu since May 2019. If we assume that practice is OK and give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, I can see how this chain of events might have unfolded in a way Microsoft didn’t plan.

But that doesn’t actually address any of my previous concerns:

  • Why was Microsoft using my Start Menu as free advertising for its Office products to begin with, web shortcut or no?
  • Why do these shortcuts fire up Microsoft Edge, instead of respecting my own default choice of browser?
  • Why does Microsoft believe it has the right to force-restart my PC at all? What was so critical about this update to make that worthwhile?

Microsoft has clearly heard some displeasure, and it’s reacting to that today. But it’s not clear whether anything will change as a result. Microsoft is still advertising its own apps in your Start Menu alongside the programs you’ve actually installed, it’s giving them premium space in your Start Menu without asking, they’ll still open in Microsoft’s own Edge browser which the company no longer lets you remove, and — most annoyingly — the company isn’t addressing its practice of forced updates and reboots.

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