Microsoft tries out new must-use-Edge ploy in Windows 10 preview

In the latest preview of the operating system's fall feature upgrade, Microsoft has mandated that its built-in Edge browser handle the opening of links within the Windows Mail app

Microsoft will try a new way to push Windows 10 users into running Edge, forcing links opened from the Windows Mail app and its messages to display in the browser.

Normally, links embedded in messages retrieved by the Windows Mail app open in the default browser, which may be an Edge rival if the user has set one.

In the latest preview of Windows 10's fall feature upgrade, currently known as 1809 in Microsoft's yymm label format, Microsoft has mandated that Edge assume responsibilities for opening links within messages.

"We will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge, which provides the best, most secure and consistent experience on Windows 10 and across your devices," announced Dona Sarkar and Brandon LeBlanc, the Microsoft employees who most often speak for the Insider preview team, in a post to a company blog last week.

The change was added to build 17623 of the "Skip Ahead" version of Windows Insider.

The Skip Ahead builds are offered to the limited number of Insider participants whom Microsoft lets continue with the latest code during the month or longer run-up to a release of one of the twice-annual feature upgrades. Microsoft will ship the spring upgrade, designated as 1803, sometime in early April.

Although Sarkar and LeBlanc trumpeted Edge's security and battery life in their post, they said nothing about what must almost certainly be the real reason for the move: To make Windows 10 users run Edge, if only in circumscribed circumstances.

Microsoft has good reason to up the pressure on users.

Since it debuted as the default within Windows 10 nearly three years ago, Edge's user share of the browsers run under the OS has been in steady decline.

In February, Edge accounted for a record-low percentage - less than 12% of all Windows 10 systems - which represented a nearly-two-percentage-point decline from the month before. And Edge's continued slide has been in the face of Windows 10's own growing share.

Windows 10 last month powered 39% of all Windows PCs. In other words, the more people who run Windows 10, the less they collectively like Edge.

The forced-link-opening maneuver wasn't Microsoft's first attempt to inflate Edge's usage. From Windows 10's mid-2015 launch, Microsoft has made it difficult to switch to a competitor as the operating system's default and has regularly reversed any user changes with new feature upgrades.

The company has also promoted Edge as a power miser, restricted its Cortana voice-activated assistant to the browser and even marketed an Edge rewards program.

None of those plays have halted the browser's decline.

It was unclear whether the Edge-related change introduced in build 17623 will remain in place long enough to appear in the 1809 feature upgrade later this year. Sarkar and LeBlanc left room for back-pedaling.

"As always, we look forward to feedback from our WIP [Windows Insider Program] community," the two wrote, implying that if customers turned thumbs down, Microsoft might rethink the maneuver.

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