RealTime IT News

Microsoft Scales Back IE8 Default Behavior

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 will cease setting itself as the default browser when being installed as part of an "express" installation, preserving users' original settings.

The company disclosed the change, set to take effect on Tuesday, in a joint status report submitted with the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) late on Friday. The report comes in advance of a Thursday hearing with the judge overseeing Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) antitrust compliance.

Currently, when a user chooses to perform an "express," rather than a "custom," installation, IE8 defaults to setting itself as the default Web browser, whether the user had already selected a non-Microsoft browser.

The issue is specific to Windows XP and Vista installations.

After the release of IE8 last spring, the DoJ and the states who participated in the antitrust settlement received a complaint that IE8's express installation was thwarting users' preferences.

"The complaint concerned how users with a non-Microsoft default browser might inadvertently have their default browser of choice switched to IE 8 during a first-run screen entitled 'Choose your settings' because the options presented to users by Microsoft were unclear," the report said.

"The express option is most often selected by unsophisticated users who would then lose their prior default selection of a non-Microsoft browser … even though it was possible for the user to revert to the original default browser," the report continued.

As of Tuesday, users will be presented with a screen designed to clearly enable users to specify their choice of browsers before being confronted with the choice of express or custom installation of IE8.

The issue has already been dealt with in Windows 7, according to the report.

The report is one of a series that are required under Microsoft's 2002 consent decree for anti-competitive behaviors.

Oversight of Microsoft's behavior was set to end last November, but largely due to Microsoft's slowness in providing protocol interoperability information to competitors, U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly extended the oversight until May 12, 2011.

Microsoft and the DoJ issued their most recent joint report in April.