For years, Microsoft has tried to shrug off its reputation as a monopolistic tyrant. Today comes news that seems to undermine those efforts pretty badly.
The Next Web reports that users of Internet Explorer 6 are being forced to use Bing as their default search engine — even if they’ve manually switched their preference to another search provider, like Google. Attempts to switch the browser to something other than Bing result in an error message.
Update 6/3: Microsoft has fixed the bug and says it should no longer be an issue.
Now, let’s set aside the fact that IE6 is a scourge on the web that opens users up to a wide array of critical security issues and forces developers to implement ugly hacks because the browser doesn’t support many web standards. The fact of the matter is that a sizable number of users are still using IE6 (over 5% of TechCrunch readers still use it, and the global marketshare is closer to 20%). We’re talking millions of users who are potentially affected by this issue.
While the vast majority of users affected probably won’t even notice the change, some are beginnig to complain (you can find threads in Google’s forums here and here). Microsoft has confirmed the issue to Search Engine Roundtable, explaining that it is currently investigating a solution.
Given that Microsoft has long been the target of antitrust cases, there’s no way the company would have done this on purpose. But it’s a hilarious bug nonetheless, and so far there’s no easy way to fix it (expect Microsoft to issue an update in a few days). In the meantime, I suggest any affected users try a modern browser like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or IE8.