Microsoft Hijacks Chrome Download Page with Banner Ad

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has experimented with one of its most audacious attempts yet to persuade users to prefer the Edge browser over Google Chrome. It appears the plan, which effectively involved full-size banner "ads" on the Chrome website, will not proceed after the tests.

Technically speaking, the Microsoft Edge browser is built using "Chromium" code (which is open source), which is the exact same code that Google's Chrome browser uses. The only difference between Edge and Chrome is that Edge has been customized with its own set of unique features and is branded as being Microsoft Edge.

That said, the banner was spotted for a couple of days by users of Edge Canary. That's an "early release" version of the web browser that includes new features being tested, with users warned it may be less stable.

The new "feature" was arguably more for Microsoft's benefit than any user. The banner appeared whenever someone visited Google's website in order to download the Chrome browser. In this case, the user would see a small ad inserted in the page; if the user proceeded to start the Chrome download, the page would update to show the banner ad across the full width of the screen.

Test Didn't Last Long

The banner ad included the text "Microsoft Edge runs on the same technology as Chrome, with the added trust of Microsoft" along with a button marked "Browse securely now". It's not clear what this button did: the most likely explanation is that it simply cancelled the file download, but this is not confirmed. (Source:

It appears the test only ran for a couple of days in Edge Canary, though it was later spotted in Edge Beta. That's updated less frequently and should be more stable than the Canary version.

Public testing is meant to see if features cause any technological problems and also whether or not those features are widely used. In this case, it's likely Microsoft wanted to test both the logistics of displaying the ad and how hostile the public response would be.

Page "Hijacked" By Browser

The test has proven very controversial because it appears to involve Microsoft manipulating another companies website, or at least the way it appears to users. It's a very different prospect to Google itself inserting third-party ads on its own web page.

Critics have noted that Microsoft's approach here makes it unclear what the user sees on the screen is part of the web page and what has been "created" by the browser. That could be both an ethical and security concern as, for example, malware that hijacked a browser might well use similar tactics. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is Microsoft right to display such a message in this way? Would it be OK if it was made clear Microsoft had inserted the "ad" into Google's web page? Does such a move make Microsoft appear desperate to keep people using Edge?

Rate this article: 
Average: 2.9 (14 votes)


tcole_2974's picture

You know... Microsoft is its own worst enemy. Want to see the use of Edge grow, and with it theoretically the use of Bing (the true endgame here)? Stop shoving it down users' throats. There's nothing wrong with Edge, but There IS something wrong with Microsoft. They have become even more unscrupulous over the years. I won't use Edge, just on general principles, and yeah, Bing is not as good as Google. Period.

mike's picture

I think that Microsoft adding this type of "ad" to the Chrome download page just works to convince users to use something other than Edge. Personally, I use Edge if I need a second browser window open but would prefer to not use Bing for anything. I also use other browsers sometimes, but Chrome is my default. I could also do without the repeated messages on Edge to make it the default.