Microsoft has announced that they will install a new Google Chrome extension for some Office 365 ProPlus customers that will force the browser to use Bing as the default search engine "to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar."
The Microsoft Search in Bing extension will be added to all new Office 365 ProPlus installations and when updating to newer releases. The only customers that won't have this Chrome extension installed automatically are those that already have set Bing as their default Chrome search engine.
"Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it," Microsoft says. "Even after Bing is made the default search engine, your users can still change to a different default search engine in Google Chrome on their own."
"Support for the Firefox web browser is planned for a later date. We will keep you informed about support for Firefox through the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and this article," Redmond adds.
Deployment starting in mid-February
The Microsoft Search in Bing Chrome extension will be rolling out to customers starting with Office 365 ProPlus, Version 2002, through the targeted monthly channel, and in early March for the monthly update channel.
While not all users will get the extension after installing Office 365 ProPlus, Version 2002 at once, their default search engine for the Chrome web browser will be changed to Bing with a future update.
Microsoft Search in Bing welcome screen (Microsoft)
Users from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be the first to have the extension installed on their devices, based on their IP addresses.
Microsoft will also check Office 365 ProPlus devices' location once a month to install the Chrome extension if they move to one of the supported locations.
The full rollout timeline for the Microsoft Search in Bing Chrome extension is available in the table below.
Update channel Version Release date Monthly Channel (Targeted) Version 2002 Middle of February 2020 Monthly Version 2002 Early March 2020 Semi-Annual (Targeted) To be determined 03/10/20 Semi-Annual To be determined 07/14/20
Feedback to Microsoft's change
After this change was made public, customers expressed their disapproval on Twitter, Reddit, and GitHub, asking for Microsoft to change their decision.
"What are you thinking? Is this a return to the IE browser wars or something? This is an amazing abuse and should NOT be done under any circumstance," one user said on GitHub.
"So rather than simply changing the default search engine as a one off... as this is an extension presumably the point is to check and reset the search engine back to Bing if you change it to anything else?," another one commented on Reddit. "Either way it’s quite incredible that Microsoft feel entitled to do this, and I suspect it may land them in some trouble."
Microsoft's feedback section to the support article explaining this move was also invaded by outraged users suggesting its addition to "Microsoft Security Intelligence Definitions so that Windows Defender detects and removes this threat as for other similar software: 'This browser modifier installs add-ons or extensions to your Internet browser without asking you or confirming that you want to install them.'"
"Utterly Unacceptable. This feature SHOULD NOT be on by default and is totally unacceptable in a business environment," another customer added. "It would be bad enough if bing was a good search engine but it's just not, no matter how many users you force onto the platform."
"NO WAY, this is unacceptable. What are you thinking? Is this a return to the IE browser wars or something? This is an amazing abuse and should NOT be done under any circumstance," said another user.
How to prevent the Microsoft Search in Bing extension from being installed
To prevent the Microsoft Search in Bing extension from automatically being installed in Chrome, you can configure a group policy before March 2020.
To configure this group policy, please follow these steps:
When the policy is configured, it will create the following Registry entry:
- Download and install the Microsoft Office Group Policy Templates.
- Once installed, open the Group Policy Editor via Start menu or search.
- In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to the Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine)\Updates.
- Look through the list of policies and double-click on the Don't install extension for Microsoft Search in Bing that makes Bing the default the search engine option.
- Select Enabled and then press Apply followed by OK to configure the policy.
- You can now close the Group Policy Editor and the policy will be configured.
BleepingComputer has also created a registry file that you can download to automatically configure this policy for you in the Registry.
How to remove the Microsoft Search in Bing extension
If you already had the extension installed on one of your devices, you can remove it by running the following command as an Administrator:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\DefaultPackPC\MainBootStrap.exe uninstallAll
The command can also be used to remove the extension from multiple devices within an organization with the help of a script, the Configuration Manager, or with the enterprise software deployment tool of your choice.