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What just happened? People who use Chromium-based browsers may have noticed something when trying to delete one of the default search engines from the settings: it can’t be done. You can still add custom search providers and decide which one you want to use, but the delete button is gone.
Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and other browsers powered by the open-source Chromium give users a list of default search engines that can be used as their preferred choice when browsing the web. It had been possible to delete or add more, but it now seems the former option has been dropped.
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Ghacks reports that the change was initially noticed by a Reddit user who discovered it in Microsoft Edge. Another Redditor pointed out that it applied to all Chromium browsers, though it reportedly only affects their Windows versions, not the Linux variants.
In October last year, a proposal to remove the ability to delete a pre-populated search engine or make the process more difficult was put forward on the Chromium project’s page. The reason behind the proposal was that while it only takes two clicks to delete the option, “Doing so is irrecoverably destructive because, even if you're knowledgeable enough to use the Add dialog to recreate a pre-populated entry, you can't set the suggest, new tab page, or other specialized URLs.”
It was ultimately decided that prohibiting deletions, rather than making it more difficult, would fix more problems than it would create.
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Ghacks notes that the new settings options could potentially prevent malware from deleting default search engines, but on the flip side, it could also make malicious search providers more difficult to get rid of.
Users can still select which of the search engines to use as their default, of course. In reality, it’s a change that most people are unlikely to notice, and even if they do, there’s always the non-Chromium Firefox.