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

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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. If your website of choice had a PWA web app version, the Edge browser could automatically launch that as well. But — in what Microsoft seems to be calling a bug, though we’re trying to get clarity as to which part was the bug — the change also made it look like existing web shortcuts to its own Microsoft Office products had installed a web app on your PC as well.

Web versions of Microsoft Office appeared in my list of programs.
Screenshot: Sean Hollister/The Verge

Giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt for a moment, I can see how that chain of events could have unfolded, and why that might have been an unintended consequence.

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 PWAs fire up Microsoft Edge, instead of respecting my own default choice of browser? Chrome handles PWAs just fine, for example.
  • 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. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only difference is that PWAs won’t appear in your list of programs from here on out.

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