Brace yourselves: Microsoft wants to put ads in Windows 11's Start menu

PC Gamer

Good news everyone: first spotted by The Verge, a recent Windows Insider blog post revealed that the beta channel of Windows 11 will soon feature opt-out "recommended apps" from the Microsoft store in the Start menu, effectively introducing advertisements to a new, previously unsullied area of the OS. Sorry, did I say good news?

"Building on top of recent improvements like grouping recently installed apps and showing your frequently used apps," the relevant section begins, "We are now trying out recommendations to help you discover great apps from the Microsoft Store under Recommended on the Start menu."

Leaving aside the framing of this as some kind of great new feature for my benefit, my first thought was, "Wait, I thought the Start menu already crammed ads down my gullet?" Well, dear reader, I was actually thinking of the Search bar next to Windows 11's Start menu⁠—you know, the one where if you don't type the exact right file name you're looking for you get a bunch of Bing results that open into Edge instead of stuff on your computer? Yes, the sanctity of the Search widget was long ago sullied with "games for me" like "Idle Mining Empire" and "Bubble Shooter HD."

No, the Start menu Recommended tab currently serves as a home for a smattering of your own installed programs and files new and old, algorithmically proffered by Windows. I disabled even the pre advert version of this feature a while ago because it felt like The Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known: "Here you go, you little piggy, your favorites: Elden Ring, some RPG from 20 years ago, and that notepad doc where you paste the URLs of gadgets and toys you want to buy for yourself, you adult baby."

You'll similarly be able to opt out of the new Recommended apps from the store, but is it too much to ask to not have an OS I paid for keep shoving this crap in front of my face? It's chintzy and obnoxious, an extension of this feeling of Windows constantly foisting changes on users that nobody ever asked for, all while basic stuff like HDR is still a huge pain in the ass, secret commands or no⁠—the Steam Deck just does it for you, man!

Windows Search screen showing ads

Things are already going great elsewhere in Windows. I should probably just pin the Snipping Tool to my taskbar, huh. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Just today my partner dusted off my old Windows 10 laptop to print some stuff out, and before ever getting to the desktop we had to click through a shameless sequence of opt-out offers for Microsoft services. Want a cloud storage trial? No, thank you. How about an Office 365 subscription, when you already bought one of the suites years ago? Please stop. Could we interest you in some Copilot AI nonsense, perhaps? I am begging you to stop.

Beta channel users will be our first line of defense as the first subjected to advertisements in the Start menu, and their negative feedback might be enough to stop it in its tracks. The blog post almost sheepishly reminds us of this possibility: "As a reminder, we regularly try out new experiences and concepts that may never get released to Windows Insiders to get feedback." The Recommended apps themselves aren't too bad on their own, perhaps, but to my eye every encroachment of such user-hostile design needs to be responded to with extreme prejudice, lest things devolve further.

A self respecting person can only take so much, after all, and you can only get away with chronic enshittification if users have no alternatives. Apple always seems to be promising to "get serious" about gaming every few years, but Linux just isn't the pauper's OS for gaming it was just a few short years ago⁠—SteamOS and Wine have already changed so much. I'll go back to my regular holding pattern of periodically threatening to become a Linux Guy for now, but I'll only be pushed so far!

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