Chromium-based browser removal option to remove default search engines

What just happened? People using Chromium-based browsers may have noticed something when trying to remove one of the default search engines from the settings: it can’t be done. You can still add custom search providers and decide which one you want to use, but the delete button is gone.

Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave and other open-source Chromium-powered browsers provide users with a list of default search engines that can be used as their preferred choice while browsing the web. It had been possible to remove or add others, but now it seems that the old option has been abandoned.

Ghacks reports that the change was initially noticed by a Reddit user who discovered it in Microsoft Edge. Another Redditor pointed out that it applies to all Chromium browsers, although it apparently only affects their Windows versions, not the Linux variants.

In October last year, a proposal to remove the ability to remove a pre-populated search engine or make the process more difficult was put forward on the Chromium project page. The reason behind the proposal was that even though it only takes two clicks to remove the option, “This is hopelessly destructive because, even if you are knowledgeable enough to use the Add dialog to recreate a pre-populated entry, you cannot set suggestion, new tab page or other specialized URLs.”

It was eventually decided that disallowing deletions, rather than making them more difficult, would solve more problems than it created.

Ghacks notes that the new settings options could potentially prevent malware from removing default search engines, but on the other hand, it could also make malicious search providers harder to eliminate.

Users can always select which search engine to use by default, of course. In reality, it’s a change most people probably won’t notice, and even if they do, there’s still non-Chromium Firefox.

Rosemary S. Bishop