Most web browsers come with a bunch of different search engines you can switch to, if you’re not a fan of the default option. In addition to changing providers, you can remove default search engines from the list. But it looks like Chromium-based browsers no longer allow you to do this.
This change does not affect the option to set your default engine, you simply won’t be able to access the preloaded providers. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself.
Chromium-based browsers won’t allow you to remove default search engines
A reddit user reported that Microsoft Edge removed the ability to remove default search engines from settings. While that’s true, another user pointed out that this isn’t a change in Edge, but in all Chromium-based browsers. Some users say it only affects Windows version of browsers and Linux variants have the option.
According to a commit on the open-source project page, the proposal to remove the delete button was made in October 2021. The developers felt that removing search engines was too easy, and it was a bad thing because it would not be easy for users to add them back, because it is not possible to set the search engine for suggestions, new tag page and other specialized URLs. Following a small discussion that concluded that removing a search engine could cause more problems than it would cause, the change was approved a day later when Chromium 97 was released.
Chrome 97 was released about ten days ago and became the first Chromium-based browser to remove the delete button from the Manage Search Engines page. Microsoft, Opera, and Brave have followed suit by removing this option from their respective browsers.
For now, only Vivaldi, which is still based on Chromium 96, has the ability to remove default search engines. When the browser is updated with the Chromium 97-based code, it probably won’t allow users to remove search engines. Firefox and Waterfox also don’t prevent users from removing built-in search options.
Chromium-based browsers will continue to allow the user to edit keywords, but not URLs.
You can still add custom search providers if you want, allowing you to modify search parameters.
I think this change may not affect most users. This is a precautionary measure that could end up protecting the user in the event that malware tries to remove the default search engine or hijack it. That said, if a malicious extension, toolbar or website manages to use the add search engine option to inject a harmful search engine into the browser and set it as the default provider, it does not won’t be stopped, will it? This is probably a very rare scenario, which can easily be avoided by using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin, avoiding illegal websites and good old common sense not to click on random links.
I confess that I find it surprising that the removal of a simple feature in the Chromium source code impacts every browser that uses it as a base, do they have a choice? This gives Google an edge over the competition. This made me wonder what might happen when Google decides to drop support for v2 add-ons and force extensions to use Manifest V3. Will this impact other browsers in the same way? I mean, if there is no webRequest API that can be used, what could they do but rely on their own built-in ad blockers?
What do you think? Should browsers allow you to remove default search engines?