Microsoft targets another corner of Windows 11 with – you guessed it – adverts, and we’re getting a bit fed up with this

 A Windows 11 laptop user looking fed up.
A Windows 11 laptop user looking fed up.

Microsoft is testing adding a fresh batch of ads to the Windows 11 interface, this time in the Start menu.

Recent digging in preview builds had suggested this move was in the cards, and now those cards have been dealt to testers in the Windows 11 preview Beta channel with a new build (version 22635).

The ads are being placed in the ‘Recommended’ panel of the Start menu, and consist of highlighted apps from the Microsoft Store that you might want to try.

These promoted pieces of software appear with a brief description in the Recommended section, alongside the other content such as your commonly-used (already installed) apps.

As Microsoft makes clear in the blog post introducing the build, this is only rolling out in the Beta channel, and just in the US. Also, you can turn off the app promotions if you wish.

Testers who want to do so need to open the Settings app, head to Personalization > Start, and switch off the slider for ‘Show recommendations for tips, app promotions, and more.’

Analysis: Just trying stuff out…

As mentioned, this idea was already flagged up as hidden in test builds, but now it’s a reality – at least for a limited set of testers in the US. In fact, Microsoft clarifies that it is “beginning to roll this out to a small set of Insiders [testers]” so it sounds like the firm is really being tentative. On top of that, Microsoft writes: “We regularly try out new experiences and concepts that may never get released with Windows Insiders to get feedback.”

In other words – don’t panic – we’re just trying out this concept a little bit. It probably won’t ever happen – move along, there’s nothing to see here. Anyway, you get the idea: Microsoft is very aware it needs to tread carefully here, and rightly so.

Advertising like this, wrapped up as suggestions or recommendations, is becoming all too common a theme with Windows 11. Prompting of one kind or another has been floating around in the recent past, whether it’s to encourage folks to sign up for a Microsoft Account, or to use OneDrive as part of a backup strategy, or slipping ads into Outlook is another recent example. Or indeed recommendations for websites to visit, in much the same vein as these app recommendations in this Beta build.

In this case, the idea appears to be driving traffic towards the Microsoft Store – which Microsoft has been making a lot of efforts with lately to improve performance (and the store has come on leaps and bounds in that regard, to be fair).

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but sadly, we’re going to, as we’re of the firm belief that you can monetize a free product with advertising – no one can argue with that – but when a product is already paid for, shoving in ads on top – particularly with an OS, where you’re cluttering the interface – is just not on.

Microsoft may argue that these recommendations could prove useful, especially if they’re targeted for the user – though there could be privacy issues therein if that’s the way this ends up working – but still, we don’t think it’s right to be inserting these bits of adverts into the UI, no doubt turned on by default. Yes, you can turn them off – thankfully – but you shouldn’t have to in a paid OS.

It’s up to testers to feed back on this one, and let Microsoft know how they feel.

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