Microsoft recently began testing a buy now, pay later (BNPL) integration in its Edge browser. The feature, which is powered by Zip, allows online shoppers to split their purchases into four installments over a six-week period. This has drawn backlash across the web, including reviews calling the feature a “shameless cash grab.” Count me among those critics, because I think Microsoft’s latest move is dangerous and predatory. It also sets a terrible precedent for the browser in the future.
The post announcing the feature now includes negative tags such as bloat, cashgrab, dirty, exploitative, and predatory. There are over 200 comments on this post, and many have expressed their disgust with the BNPL feature on Twitter, Reddit, and the web.
A little about buying now, paying off loans later
While some people would prefer a clean browsing experience with no currency components, I haven’t seen the same hatred of Edge’s coupon feature that has been posted about BNPL. There are people who don’t like it, sure, but it didn’t attract the buy now vitriol, pay later being built into the browser. I think it’s because the companies that buy now, pay later are viewed by many as predatory.
While a coupon feature saves people money and costs consumers nothing, buy now, pay later, loans can get people into debt. In an ideal situation, anyone using a BNPL service would be able to make all payments on time. This is not the reality, however. In many cases, people are overspending and falling behind on their payments. You can blame the consumer for this, but the truth is, Klarna, Zip, and other BNPL services encourage overspending.
There are BNPL options, including Zip Pay, that don’t charge interest. There are, however, late fees for those who miss payments. Other options, including Zip Money, can charge extremely high interest rates.
Browsers should not have ads
The Buy Now, Pay Later feature has sparked a discussion about what belongs to a browser, but BNPL isn’t just a problem because it’s predatory.
Edge shouldn’t have any ads at all. BNPL can attract criticism, but the practice of integrating services into a browser’s settings is flawed on several fronts, including causing potential legal problems. Edge is built into Windows 11 and Windows 10. You cannot easily uninstall it. Soon Windows will have BNPL integration built right into the default browser which cannot be easily removed. It’s a red flag in my book, and I imagine there are lawmakers in Europe with similar sentiments.
Extensions are already a thing
The crux of many complaints about the Buy Now, Pay Later integration with Microsoft Edge is the fact that the functionality is built right into the app. While this is an optional feature, choosing to use it is made directly in the Edge settings menu. BNPL is not an essential feature of web browsing. Why have the functionality directly integrated into the browser?
Modern browsers already have a way to provide optional features, extensions. These have been around for a long time and seem to work very well. In fact, Microsoft has made a big deal that the new Edge supports extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Microsoft offers many extensions, including Microsoft Editor. Zip already has an extension in the Chrome Web Store that works in Microsoft Edge.
It’s not necessary
The strangest thing about this whole saga is that it doesn’t have to be. Microsoft has worked hard to make Edge a good browser. After years of Internet Explorer memes and struggles with the older version of Edge, the company switched to Chromium. This movement was generally greeted with praise. Even tech enthusiasts have complimented the browser.
After creating Edge, Microsoft seems determined to reject any goodwill it has gained while making it one of the best Windows apps.
I’m not naive, at least not enough to think that Microsoft is building its browser with the kindness of its heart. I am aware that there are monetization opportunities within Edge, such as Bing research and advertising. I don’t have the numbers from Microsoft, but I predict that negative publicity on BNPL will cost Microsoft in the long run. It has already cost Microsoft some of its reputation. It remains to be seen whether this will affect the company’s bottom line. I guess if Microsoft starts to lose money, this integration will go away.