After years of complaints by users and competitors, Microsoft quietly announced in a blog post Thursday that Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) will no longer automatically set itself as the default during any part of its installation process.
Additionally, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said it will distribute the new settings and screens to IE8 users next month.
Under the new settings, IE8 will specifically ask the user during the installation process whether or not he or she would like IE to be the system’s default browser. It will not change the user’s default browser without asking the user first, and the screen will not default to checking the box marked “IE.”
“IE will never install, or become the default browser without your explicit consent,” said the posting on the IEBlog.
Microsoft will distribute the changes via dynamic updates — i.e., Windows Update and Automatic Update, the company’s automated sites for distributing software updates.
“We decided to use dynamic updates in order to deliver this change to the market as quickly as possible, rather than re-release IE8 in over 60 languages,” Microsoft said in the post. “We expect to roll this out in mid-August.”
The change will arrive as part of a cumulative security update for IE.
Microsoft’s decision affects installations on both Vista and XP, as well as users who have installed a different default browser in Windows 7, the team said.
Microsoft launched IE8 in mid-March and has touted its speed as being as fast or faster than competitors.
Ironically, scaling back on IE’s behavior comes as the company would dearly like to retake market share that the browser has lost in recent years. Still, the move signals some willingness to yield to both users’ complaints as well as complains of unfair competitive behavior raised by rival browser makers like Mozilla (Firefox), Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome) and Opera.
Competing companies aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on Microsoft’s browser-based activities.
Microsoft is currently under fire by the European Commission’s (EC) competition directorate for what it said has been the illegally bundling of IE with Windows going back to 1996.
The EC’s case against Microsoft, which is expected to be decided any day, promises to not only force Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows versions sold in European Union nations, but also require that the software giant provide a selection of competing browsers from which the user can chose when setting up their OS.
That is not to mention an expected fine that could go into the billions of euros.