Ads in File Explorer are ‘experimental’, says Microsoft • The Register

Comment Microsoft’s hasty rollback of ads in File Explorer has industry watchers worried.

The Windows Insider team is trained in accidental emissions. There was the surprise rollout of 20H1 in 2019, for example, and the bundling of a bug that erased some users’ data with Windows 10 October 2018 Update remains etched in the memory of many.

However, Microsoft’s statement regarding the furore over ads in File Explorer leaves more than one elephant lurking in the corner of the room.

This was an experimental banner that was not intended for external publishing and has been disabled – Brandon LeBlanc, Senior Product Manager, Windows

LeBlanc’s statement doesn’t say that ads won’t run in the future, which raises understandable concern that searching for binaries might end up being marred by banners.

Microsoft has never been opposed to the insertion of advertisements for its services in its products. Ads also appear in Windows’ built-in apps, and we noted the Helpful Hints in the Start Menu (today suggests Outlook Rules would be fine, despite the fact that this writer doesn’t actually use Windows’s email client Microsoft).

The Windows giant isn’t alone in throwing ads at users – iPhones, for example, regularly advertise iCloud until users figure out how to opt out of requests or pay for a subscription.

However, it is impossible to escape the bad taste that such things leave in the mouth. After all, you paid for your PC. You also paid for the operating system. Why then should you be bombarded with helpful suggestions of services you might like to try? They can be disabled, but that should be the default rather than a setting to track down.

There’s a distinct feeling that the “experimental banner” was Microsoft testing the waters. It also highlighted how your desktop can be turned on and off at Microsoft’s whim. We knew chunks of the Start Menu and Search came from Microsoft’s servers, but it looks like the tentacles reached at least File Explorer.

LeBlanc’s error was limited to the Dev Channel this time. However, it does demonstrate that Microsoft may soon (or already have) a little more power over its computer than one might have thought. The Windows Insider team, with its “experimental banner”, demonstrated how it could be used. ®