- Apr 24, 2016
Most web browsers ship with a bunch of different search engines that you may switch to, if you are not a fan of the default option. In addition to changing the provider, you may delete the default search engines from the list. But it appears that Chromium based browsers no longer allow you to do it.
This change does not affect the option to set your default engine, you just won't be able to the preloaded providers. That's not necessarily a bad thing per se.
According to a commit on the open-source project's page, the proposal to remove the delete button was made in October 2021. The developers felt that deleting the search engines was too easy, and that it was a bad thing because it would not be easy for users to add them back, as it is not possible to set the search provider for suggestions, new tag page and other specialized URLs. Following a small discussion which concluded that deleting a search provider could cause more problems than it would break, the change was approved a day later when Chromium 97 was released.
I think this change may not affect most users. It is a precautionary measure that could end up protecting the user in the event a malware tries to delete the default search engine, or hijack it. That said, if a malicious extension, toolbar or website, manages to use the add search engine option to inject a harmful search provider in the browser, and set it as the default provider, it wouldn't be stopped, would it? That is likely a very rare scenario, one that can easily be prevented by using an ad-blocker like uBlock Origin, avoiding illegal websites, and good old common sense of not clicking links randomly.
I will admit that I find it surprising that the removal of a simple feature in Chromium's source code impacts every browser that uses it as the base, do they have a choice? This does give Google an advantage over the competition. This got me wondering about what could happen when Google decides to kill support for v2 add-ons, and forces extensions to use Manifest V3. Will it impact other browsers in the same way? I mean, if there is no webRequest API that can be used, what could they possibly do except to rely on their own built-in ad-blockers?
Browsers that are based on Chromium 97 or later, will no longer allow users to delete default search engines from the settings.