Why am I seeing this dialog?

Internet Explorer 8 has a new feature that keeps you in control of your search engine default, by informing you when software attempts to change your settings.

If you are using Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 or RC1, you might have seen the following dialog when installing new software:

search provider default confirmation dialog. The dialog asks the user to confirm or decline a change to the default search provider.

The default search preference is the search engine Internet Explorer uses when you type a search query into the search box in the top-right corner of the main Internet Explorer window:

the IE search box

(Wikipedia is set as my default.)

Internet Explorer also use the default search preference when you type a question into the address bar – Try typing “How high is Mt Everest” into the address bar.

A lot of toolbars that plug into Internet Explorer modify the user’s search preference in their installer program. Some ask (by way of a checkbox in their install program) if they should change it.

Some don’t ask clearly, and change your setting without you noticing the change before it happens. We believe this is not a good thing – a program should never change a user’s setting without their unambiguous consent.

To counteract this, some applications or toolbars install a ‘search setting protector’ – a small program that monitors your search default preference, and switches it back automatically to their search engine if any other program ever changes the setting. A lot of users have multiple toolbars installed – and this creates a situation where toolbar installers, toolbars and ‘search setting protectors’ are all fighting over your search setting – If you, or another program, ever changes the setting, you will see a variety of prompts from various ‘search setting protectors’, warning you about the change.

All of the squabbling between programs means that you are not in complete control of your search preference – your setting.

Starting in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, any toolbar that wants to change the search setting default (by setting a registry key) will trigger a ‘user consent’ dialog, where the requested change is explained clearly, and you are asked to approve/not approve the change. So, no program can silently change your search setting without you knowing about it.

This change in Internet Explorer does not  break any existing toolbar installers or ‘search setting protector’ programs – they can still change the user’s search setting (by changing a registry key in the user’s registry) – but when Internet Explorer starts up, you will be informed of the change, and you can allow or decline the change.

There is also a new API for setting the search default. Any application can call this API, and request that the Internet Explorer Search Default be changed. A dialog box is shown (and the application requesting the change is clearly identified) and the user can allow/not allow the change.

If a ‘search setting protector’ program keeps asking you to change your default, you can clearly indicate your preference (and lock them out of changing your preference in the future) by checking the ‘Prevent programs from suggesting changes to my default search provider’ checkbox. You can still use the Manage Search Providers command in the search box dropdown to change your default search provider at any point – you should be able to set your search default to anything you want, without any programs interfering with it.

the search options dropdown box.

And Everest is 8,848 meters (29,029 FT) high, by the way.

Frank Olivier
Program Manager