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Microsoft may be rethinking its plan to jam ads into Windows 11's Start menu

Windows 11 has a hidden option to turn off Start menu 'notifications' that look like a potentially ripe avenue for Microsoft to push its services.

Microsoft may be rethinking its plan to jam ads into Windows 11's Start menu
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Microsoft might have thought better about its apparent plan to push notifications relating to Microsoft Accounts - that effectively look like advertising - in the Windows 11 Start menu.

This is going by findings in a new preview build of Windows 11, and while it doesn't represent the abandonment of the idea, it does at least allow for a way that users can opt out of seeing these notifications (or ads, depending on how you look at them - we'll come back to that point).

Note that this is far from concrete - it's a hidden option in a test build of Windows 11 - but at least it's there in build 23419 (for the Dev channel).

The slider to turn off Microsoft's scheme to 'Show account related notifications occasionally in Start' is present under Personalization for the Start menu (in Settings), as shown by leaker PhantomOfEarth on Twitter. They unearthed said option by prodding around under the hood of Windows 11 with a configuration tool (ViVeTool).

As to the exact nature of these notifications - which are set to debut in Windows 11 next month, as they're in the latest optional update for 22H2 - they consist of prompts to, for example, back up your files to the cloud.

As these notifications relate to your Microsoft Account, doubtless clicking to go ahead with a backup will link you over to OneDrive, the company's own cloud storage service. Hence the worry about the fine line between a helpful prompt and a piece of advertising.

It all adds up

Adverts within Windows are nothing new, of course, although to be fair to Microsoft, we've seen a lot of experimentation and testing with ideas for ads that have never actually come to the release version of Windows. Some have, though, most notably various cajoling measures to get Windows users to switch to the Edge browser.

What's of particular concern is that recently Microsoft seems to be peering down the path of ads with even more intent. So, for example, as well as this Start menu move, we're hearing that Microsoft may also be pushing to include advertising with its new Bing AI chatbot. At the moment, we're told the software giant is only exploring this concept, but still - it's not difficult to imagine that this is what will happen.

If we get options to turn off features like these - which will hopefully be the case with the Start menu change, if the hidden option that's just been uncovered is realized - that's at least something.

Ideally, we'd have features like this as opt-in. In other words, check boxes that are off by default where the user has to allow Windows 11 to 'help' with prompts in the Start menu, or where they can give permission to the Bing chatbot to make 'recommendations' within chats and so forth.

Or at least with Windows 11, Microsoft could just forget trying to jam what seem to be thinly veiled attempts at driving footfall to its other products into an operating system that we've already paid for, thank-you-very-much.

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Darren has written for numerous magazines and websites in the technology world for almost 30 years, including TechRadar, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Computeractive, and many more. He worked on his first magazine (PC Home) long before Google and most of the rest of the web existed. In his spare time, he can be found gaming, going to the gym, and writing books (his debut novel – ‘I Know What You Did Last Supper’ – was published by Hachette UK in 2013).

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