Microsoft to use Windows 11 Start menu as a billboard with app ads for Insiders

This wasn't what most had in mind when Redmond promised to make the feature 'great again'

Microsoft is to try out "recommendations" – ads for apps in the Microsoft Store – in the Windows 11 Start Menu, but only for a small set of US Beta Channel Windows Insiders at first.

The Windows behemoth is known for running ads in its flagship operating system. In 2022, the company released a build that displayed ads in File Explorer, which it subsequently backed away from. Windows 10 has long featured ads, so the prospect of Microsoft utilizing space in the Windows 11 user interface for its "recommendations" is not unexpected.

However, it will frustrate users who interpreted the promise to "make Start Menu great again" as a commitment to improve its functionality, rather than just adding what some might see as helpful suggestions.

The recommendations can be turned off and are limited to a subset of US Beta Channel Windows Insiders who have opted to get the latest operating system updates as soon as they are available.

Microsoft noted: "We regularly try out new experiences and concepts that may never get released with Windows Insiders to get feedback." However, its appearance in the Beta Channel indicates that there is every chance the feature could be released more widely in the future.

There are four channels in the Windows Insider program. The Canary Channel allows users to preview platform changes early in the development cycle, while the Dev Channel is aimed at enthusiasts and is used by Microsoft to "incubate new ideas."

Microsoft recommends the Beta Channel for "early adopters." It is followed by the Release Preview Channel, where commercial users can preview fixes and updates before wider release.

Of the Beta Channel, Microsoft has said: "Your feedback has the greatest impact here," and it has asked Insiders receiving the new experience to "let us know what you think."

The reaction thus far has not been positive. Open source desktop outfit KDE was swift to post a plug for its Plasma desktop with the words: "Look! No ads!"

The recommendations come as Microsoft ramps up attempts to block several desktop customization tools, such as ExplorerPatcher and StartAllBack. ®

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