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Microsoft slides ads into Windows Insiders' File Explorer

It was a mistake, vendor tells The Register

Updated Microsoft appears to be experimenting with more adverts in Windows 11 after eagle-eyed Insider users spotted helpful hints turning up in File Explorer.

Windows Insider Florian posted a screenshot of the ads, and other unpaid testers said they noticed similar hints lurking in the Dev Channel build, with one ad suggesting users visit Microsoft's Office website to look at PowerPoint templates.

Our sacrificial Dev Channel machine (currently running 22572.201 – yet another servicing pipeline test) does not show the messages, suggesting that Microsoft is performing some sort of A/B testing and we're simply not on the list.

The ad that was spotted by Florian suggests that perhaps the user might fancy using Microsoft Editor.

There was no mention of the helpful tips in the release notes for the latest Windows Insider build, although Microsoft does have form when it comes to crowbarring ads for its own services into its operating systems.

Microsoft also infamously tried to stick third-party advertising into its Mail client during the heyday of Windows 10.

Unsurprisingly, the reaction thus far has been universally negative with some jokesters suggesting that the team responsible had "lost their damn minds." Others muttered darkly that the change from "My Computer" to "This PC" (which, to be fair, happened long before Windows 11) was a symptom of a greater malaise.

The attempt to ad sell services is not entirely new; we regularly see ads for Microsoft products popping up in all manner of locations – the Windows 10 Start Menu on this author's PC, for example, insists that our online shopping would be safer with Microsoft OneDrive. Then there is the the way Microsoft has forced its new Edge browser on not-always-willing customers.

However, making use of File Explorer in this way could well be a step too far for many users. There are, after all, plenty of File Explorer alternatives out there, and if you prefer to keep using your own PC hardware without the messaging from Redmond, Windows is no longer the essential it once was.

The Register contacted Microsoft to learn more about its plans and will update should the Windows behemoth respond.

In the meantime, the ads thus far appear limited to the Dev Channel, meaning that this particular method of directing the user to the company's services might never see the light of day. ®

Updated to add at 1705 UTC on March 15

Brandon LeBlanc, a senior product manager on the Windows team, told The Register in a statement: "This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off."

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