Microsoft is closing off one of the easiest ways to Google search in Windows 10. The company has announced in a blog post that starting today, it will block the ability to perform third-party searches through the Cortana digital assistant, as part of an effort to maintain an "integrated search experience." The move comes in response to a number of recent workarounds, which used browser extensions or even registry edits to establish Google as the default engine for Cortana searches instead of Bing.
The company is particularly concerned about logging search results across different parts of Windows, as certain Cortana queries can now trigger corresponding features in Edge or Bing. As the company explained in a blog post, "the only way we can confidently deliver this personalized, end-to-end search experience is through the integration of Cortana, Microsoft Edge and Bing." Google and other search engines will still be accessible through a conventional browser search.
While Microsoft's reaction is surprising, it's not entirely unprecedented. Both Siri and Android's voice search feature lock users into obscured default search engines, a choice that some have criticized as contrary to the principles of neutral user choice. Still, it's bad news for anyone who had been using the new extensions, and an unusual direction for an operating system that has typically distinguished itself as more customizable than its competitors.