Microsoft defends barging in on Chrome with pop-up ads pushing Bing, GPT-4

We thought you people wanted choice, IT colossus sniffs

Microsoft is cheerily popping up adverts over Chrome on Windows PCs to push its search engine and AI assistant.

As users have pointed out this week, while using Google's desktop browser on Windows 10 or 11, a dialog box suddenly and irritatingly appears to the side of the screen urging folks to make Microsoft's Bing the default search engine in Chrome.

Not only that, netizens are told they can use Chrome to interact with Bing's OpenAI GPT-4-powered chat bot, allowing them to ask questions and get answers using natural language. We can forgive those who thought this was malware at first glance.

"Chat with GPT-4 for free on Chrome!" the pop-up advert, shown below, declares. "Get hundreds of daily chat turns with Bing AI."

It goes on: "Try Bing as default search," then alleges: "Easy to switch back. Install Bing Service to improve chat experience." Users are encouraged to click on "Yes" in the Microsoft pop-up to select Bing as Chrome's default search engine.

What's really gross is the next part. Clicking "Yes" installs the Bing Chrome extension and changes the default search provider. Chrome alerts the user in another dialog box that something potentially malicious is trying to update their settings. Google's browser recommends you click on a "Change it back" button to undo the tweak.

But Redmond is one step ahead, displaying a message underneath Chrome's alert that reads: "Wait – don't change it back! If you do, you’ll turn off Microsoft Bing Search for Chrome and lose access to Bing AI with GPT-4 and DALL-E 3."

This is where we're at: Two Big Tech giants squabbling in front of users via dialog boxes.

Screenshot of Microsoft's latest Chrome pop-up ad for Bing

Screenshot of Microsoft's latest Chrome pop-up ad for Bing ... Source: TheDyslexicCow on Reddit

Microsoft confirmed this is the real deal in a statement to Windows Latest and others, saying: "This is a one-time notification giving people the choice to set Bing as their default search engine on Chrome."

It may be a one-off thing, but people won't know that when they see it.

"For those who choose to set Bing as their default search engine on Chrome, when signed in with their MSA [Microsoft account] they also get more chat turns in Copilot and chat history," the IT giant's spinners added.

"We value providing our customers with choice, so there is an option to dismiss the notification."

That last part is amusing because what with a renewed focus by watchdogs on fair competition in the technology world – eg, Apple being forced in Europe to display a browser choice screen, boosting downloads of Safari rivals Firefox, Brave, and Vivaldi – and AI hype barely moving the needle for Bing in a Google-dominated market, we get to see Microsoft's contribution to the debate.

That contribution being, tediously, another nag screen for users to change their mind about their preferred search engine and give Bing a go, at a time when the quality of Google's search results are under fire. Popping an ad in people's faces like a piece of low-rent malware isn't going to win hearts and minds.

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Perhaps Microsoft thinks this latest interruption is nothing more than another user choice screen that regulators are in favor of. It's just one that happens to jump out randomly. Too bad there's no option to prevent this from happening as far as we can tell – well, other than installing another operating system. My accomplished colleague Liam Proven writes about them a lot.

For what it's worth, it's believed the pop-up is generated by BCILauncher or BingChatInstaller on Windows PCs in C:\Windows\temp\mubstemp. We've asked the Windows maker for further comment.

And this isn't the first time Microsoft's tried this kind of thing. Around this time last year, the Windows titan was begging netizens not to ditch its Edge browser on Google's own Chrome download page. Redmond also pushed Bing in Windows 11 via pop-ups, and recently had Edge automatically and unexpectedly import Chrome tabs for at least some people.

However cute and caring Microsoft tries to paint itself lately, it never misses an opportunity to get an, ahem, edge over its rivals, no matter how annoying that is to everyone. ®

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