Mozilla slams Microsoft for Using Dark Theme to Push Windows Users Towards Edge

Mozilla strongly criticizes Microsoft for employing deceptive tactics, commonly known as “dark patterns,” to steer Windows users towards its Edge browser. The accusation centers on design elements intentionally crafted to guide users toward specific choices. Mozilla’s report, titled “Over the Edge: How Microsoft’s Design Tactics Compromise Free Browser Choice,” contends that Microsoft’s tactics not only encourage the use of Edge but also discourage users from exploring alternative browser options.

This is not the first time Mozilla has raised such concerns. Previous reports, including the September 2022 “Five Walled Gardens” report and last month’s “Platform Tilt” report, addressed broader competitive barriers in platforms operated by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

The focus of “Over the Edge” is on Microsoft Edge, outlining allegations of manipulative design patterns that fall under the umbrella of “dark patterns” or “deceptive patterns.” These patterns aim to influence users toward a specific outcome when faced with choices in a visual interface. Similar accusations have been directed at other tech companies, such as Amazon, indicating a persistence of these design strategies despite efforts to curb them through legislation.

Mozilla asserts that Microsoft’s use of harmful design impedes user choices globally, prompting a call for regulatory action to restore browser choice and competition on major platforms. The report emphasizes the significance of Europe’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) in promoting fair competition, with the enforcement scheduled to commence in March. azx azx azx azx azx azx azx azx

Despite acknowledging the positive direction in some markets, Mozilla laments incomplete improvements, particularly in regions where regulatory pressure has compelled platform owners to respect browser choice. Mozilla’s spokesperson clarified that the organization’s stance on fair and open competition remains unchanged but highlights the need to comprehend technical aspects related to legislation like the DMA, prompting their commissioned independent research.

The report acknowledges developers’ right to promote their products but insists that it should be done ethically without compromising user choices. Mozilla underscores users’ rights to download and install any legitimate alternative browser, set it as the default, and use it without coercion or manipulation.

Various manipulative interface patterns, such as “Confirmshaming,” “Forced Action,” “Visual Interference,” and “Disguised Ads,” are outlined in the report. For instance, Mozilla criticizes Edge for injecting ads for Microsoft’s browser into the Chrome download page on Google’s website. The report also condemns Microsoft’s Bing search engine for displaying non-standard format ads for Edge when users search for rival browsers like Safari or Vivaldi, potentially leveraging the Windows user interface to mislead users.

The report concludes by asserting that Microsoft’s use of these techniques is unjustifiable, with the potential to cause harm to consumers, society, and the market. Mozilla calls for Microsoft to cease using these alleged dark patterns immediately. As of now, Microsoft has not responded to the accusations.