In brief: Chrome users will soon have flashbacks to the days of the Ask Toolbar, as Microsoft is adapting the Office 365 installer to automatically install the Bing extension and change the default search engine for people using the company's productivity suite.
The Redmond giant isn't just busy moving as many customers as possible to the latest version of Windows 10. According to a new report from Thurrott, one of the company's next moves will apparently involve hijacking the default search engine in Google's Chrome browser for people who install Office 365 ProPlus.
This was spotted inside a Microsoft support document, which says that "Starting with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus, an extension for Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed that makes Bing the default search engine for the Google Chrome web browser." And that will also happen every time you update an existing installation of Office 365, unless you already have the Bing extension already installed on your PC.
Microsoft explains that this is mostly intended to give business users an easy way to take advantage of Microsoft Search if they happen to be users of Google Chrome. And that's because Microsoft has had to reinvent its Edge browser to win back users, most of which have moved on to Chrome and Firefox over the years. Speaking of which, Microsoft plans to treat Firefox users to the same extension and search engine changes in the coming months.
However, people quickly took to Reddit, Twitter, and GitHub to complain about the move. While many believe they would tolerate Microsoft installing the extension, system administrators in particular don't agree to the company switching the default search engine to Bing. They argue the feature should be optional, as it could confuse users and create a lot of ruckus for IT departments in large organizations.
In any case, Microsoft expected some backlash and included some suggestions in the support documentation on how administrators can exclude the extension from being installed through Group Policy or the Office Deployment Tool.
There's a lot of speculation out there as to why Microsoft is doing all this, but it's not a secret that in terms of usage, Bing is a distant second to Google, dwelling in the single digits region. And since Bing lost the bid for Google's "choice screen" on Android in the EU to DuckDuckGo, it's unlikely the situation would change anytime soon. Bing's only remaining funnels for users are Microsoft Edge and Cortana, both of which are not very popular with users.
Microsoft says it will initially roll out these changes sometime in February for users in the US, Canada, India, France, Germany, and the UK. By the time this hits more regions, Firefox users will experience the same changes when installing or updating Office 365.