Microsoft back to its monopoly, the days of stifling competition? Microsoft Edge is going to have a free VPN built-in

Microsoft will soon add a free VPN in Edge, which will force the company to reclaim territory in a Chrome-dominated landscape. let’s look The Microsoft story and find out why a free VPN in Edge is a landmark decision that could have a huge impact on both VPN users and VPN companies.

Noticed by The edge on a Microsoft support page, Edge’s free VPN will be called “Edge Secure Network” and will be powered by Cloudflare, a company known for its anti-DDOS technology.

The new Edge VPN offers the same features as other paid VPNs, from traffic encryption to hide your tracks from your ISP to using a virtual IP address to access streaming services not available in your area.

Microsoft Secure Network in Edge

Microsoft’s free VPN will be limited to 1GB per month and will require you to be signed in to your Microsoft account. This removes most of the privacy features offered by a VPN, since Microsoft will have access to your browsing habits, but still leaves out the feature that most people are looking for (access to region-locked content).

A free in-browser VPN was launched by Opera in 2018, but that company’s market share is a negligible amount – only 2.07% of Internet users browse the web with Opera. For Google Chrome, you have to pay a $9.99 Google One for the VPN, and Mozilla’s VPN is a $4.99 per month bargain available in only a few countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.)

Given Google’s absolute dominance in the market, the decision to offer a free Edge VPN is a bold (but old) tactic to claw back some territory. Take a look at the market share of web browsers throughout history.

Microsoft was once the absolute king of browsers, then lost almost all market share to Google, then slowly but surely started climbing the charts again.

By offering this product for free, Microsoft seems to be returning to its monopolistic heyday.

Anyone familiar with the tech industry from its early days knows that Microsoft has an uneven track record when it comes to competition. Since the DoJ’s famous 1990s investigation into Microsoft’s monopolistic practices, many companies developing Windows software have had to compete with products developed by Microsoft, with the odds stacked against them.

“Microsoft’s public statements completely contradict the company’s practices. On the one hand, Microsoft states that “our software is the best, because the public buys it”. On the other hand, he uses a very sophisticated arsenal of techniques to prevent the public from choosing anything other than his products”.

This is a summary provided by researchers Roberto Di Cosmo and Dominique Nora in an essay titled “Hijacking the World: The Dark Side of Microsoft”, originally published in 1998.

“Microsoft’s corporate culture is based on eliminating competitors. The most insidious and effective way to kill competing products is to use the “network effect” (which deals with interoperability between different applications), described earlier, to export its Windows monopoly to all other sectors of the computer industry. When a software publisher owns both the operating system (Windows) and the applications (Word, Excel, Explorer), it is technically possible for him to modify the operating system to make competing products either unstable or unusable, at the same time as it improves the performance of its own programs,” they further explain.

When it comes to cybersecurity, Microsoft has been described as a “bully” more times than you can count.

In the days of Bill Gates, antivirus software makers trembled in their boots every time they came close to success: because Microsoft copied their product or bought it outright, stifling any meaningful competition.

A Windows Defender prompt to renew antivirus protection
A Windows Defender prompt to renew antivirus protection

In 2003, Microsoft bought Romania-based software GeCAD to bring its RAV antivirus to the fold. In 2004, Microsoft released the first version of its own anti-spyware software, Microsoft AntiSpyware, based on technology purchased alongside GIANT AntiSpyware.

In 2004, this tool was renamed Windows Defender, and in 2006 became the full-fledged free antivirus package that Windows users still know today.

In 2005, Microsoft purchased New York-based Sybari, which specializes in securing email communications, making it the 8th security-related purchase in the previous two years. At that time, Microsoft was spending $2 billion a year on IT security development. Also that year, Microsoft rushed to launch Internet Explorer 7.0 to handle growing competition from a new web browser, Firefox.

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“Defender appears to be the latest reification of Microsoft’s historic anti-competitive spree. The problems associated with it are twofold.

First, the fact that it comes pre-installed on Windows as freeware can seriously deter users from considering third-party programs. It comes with multiple features that make it so. Chief among them is Defender’s relatively high compatibility with Windows,” says Qrius, explaining one of the ways the security industry has been affected by the Microsoft product. In 2016, Kaspersky accused Microsoft to strangle the competition by promoting its own product and not sharing critical information that impacted the competition’s ability to update its own software. In 2017, more companies filed complaints against them.

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“The complaints relate to Microsoft’s free security software add-on, Defender, included by default in the Windows 10 operating system. Security companies claim that this tactic shrinks the market for competing security software.

A notification from Windows Defender regarding the protection of Kaspersky Anti-Virus
A notification from Windows Defender regarding the protection of Kaspersky Anti-Virus

In 2020, Windows 10 installations began demanding a Microsoft account to operate (instead of traditional local accounts with usernames and passwords). The only workaround for this requirement, in order to install Windows without a Microsoft account, was to disconnect the PC or laptop from the internet while installing Windows 10.

In a recent report, Windows Defender was found to weaker than most antiviruses offline software. This is probably “a feature, not a bug”, as it shows Microsoft’s desire to keep all parts of the Windows ecosystem online, at all times, in order to obtain as much user data as possible.

Now, the upcoming Free Edge VPN will also require a Microsoft account. Although it’s free, it will share your browsing data with Microsoft, so users would do well to question its usefulness.

With the VPN industry one of the thriving bastions of cybersecurity and dozens of companies vying for the title of “best VPN”, Microsoft offering free VPN in Edge is a terrifying threat to their existence.

In a browser landscape dominated by Google, Edge being by far the second most popular choice, adding this free VPN in Edge will certainly increase Microsoft’s share – and leave no room for more restricted competition.

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Microsoft back to its monopoly, the days of stifling competition? Microsoft Edge is going to have a free VPN built-in

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