Microsoft could test its customers' tolerance for ads in Windows 11 once again, as Windows Insiders have spotted yet another advert in an early version of the operating system that's currently being tested. This means the feature is still technically in progress with Microsoft monitoring its reception, and it could decide to roll the new ads out to all users in a future Windows update.

Windows 11 Insider Build 22635.3500, which features the advert, was released in the Beta Channel of the Windows Insider Program, and comes shortly after Microsoft started testing ads in the Start Menu of Windows 11 as well. The new ad appears in the Settings app and suggests users sign up for Xbox Game Pass

The update also includes other new features that will probably be more popular with users such as a new account manager in the Start menu and introducing support for Gmail in Windows Share (which lets Windows devices easily share files and folders with other devices over a network that they’re a part of). However, these new features were overshadowed by the deployment of the ad in Settings. 

Microsoft has put out a Windows Insider Blog post detailing the changes and features that make up the new build, and it mentions the ad’s inclusion, which it calls a ‘recommendation,’ on the Settings home page. It suggests that the Game Pass recommendation card will only be shown to users who actively play games on their PCs. It also adds that this advert will only show in the Settings homepage if you’re running the Home and Pro editions of Windows 11 and you’re signed into your Microsoft account on your device. 

Microsoft's continuing dedication to 'recommendations'

This development isn’t completely out of the blue as Microsoft has been experimenting with where it can get away with sticking ads for a while now. Alongside testing ads on the Settings page, it’s also trying out placing adverts in the Start menu’s ‘Recommended’ section. Microsoft is really trying to blur the line between what’s an ad and what it claims are just friendly ‘recommendations’, with pinned apps that look like ads for its other products appearing in a clean install of Windows 11. 

Some people say that even if these sorts of ads appear, they might be acceptable as it’s often advertising products and services, like OneDrive, that could enhance the Windows 11 user experience. Some users are okay with this as long as the adverts show Microsoft’s products that could improve using their Windows 11 device. 

However, many other people aren’t so hot on the idea, even if the products are Microsoft’s own, and are especially opposed to adverts for third-party apps. It can feel like the space that’s supposed to be your own personal or work digital space is turned into something resembling a billboard, as Windows Central describes it. To some, it’s particularly egregious when showing third-party app ads that may not add to the core Windows 11 experience, which feels like a cash grab by Microsoft. 

Those who are annoyed by these ads are probably feeling even more antagonistic because the ads are integrated into key parts of the operating system (OS) that you have to navigate to operate your device, so if you want to use the OS, you don’t have a choice but to see the adverts that appear in these key locations. Also, the Settings home page is kind of a strange place for an advert for Game Pass – generally, the two aren’t directly tied together.

Unfortunately, Microsoft seems set on this strategy, and according to Windows Central’s Senior Editor Zac Bowden, if you’re a Windows 11 user who’s not keen on the persistent flow of new AI features or more ads, you’re “in for a terrible next four months.” Many people are calling the approach straight-up aggressive, and I can’t disagree. We’re already bombarded by advertisements almost everywhere we turn, and it’s frustrating that our devices, which are necessary for many people for work and leisure, are increasingly becoming one more ad-saturated place we can’t entirely escape. 


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