Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Ads in the Windows 11 Start Menu and in iOS

Thomas Bandt:

So I pulled a Dell laptop from a drawer under my desk and set up Windows 11.


First, there was news about a mass shooting that had occurred only recently. In the middle of the search menu. The menu which was supposed to be one of the first touch points with that computer for the kid.


So, there is basically little you can do with Windows out of the box but buy subscriptions and log into pre-installed social media apps. One thing I knew right on the spot: That’s not an environment I want my kid to make his first steps “on a real computer.”

Matt Birchler (Hacker News):

The weather info you clicked on occupies 4% of the pixels (I actually counted), and the rest is devoted to garbage from the MSN home page. And don’t worry, it does infinitely scroll, so you can browse this bullshit to your heart’s content.

And no, there is no way to turn this news feed off. The best you can do is “manage interests” which kicks you out to msn.com to have you tell it what topics you prefer. If you can believe it, my preferences say I only care about sports!

Oh, and to be clear, this isn’t some OEM addition, this is core Windows…you can’t escape this with a Surface device: this is the Windows experience as Microsoft sees it.

Eric Schwarz:

Although Bandt is talking about Windows 11, a lot of these things started to creep in with Windows 10, a vast departure from the stay-out-of-your-way nature of old versions like Windows XP.

Nick Heer:

I am thankful I use a Windows 11 computer at my day job because it puts things into perspective. Apple’s operating systems are also full of ads for its services but it is somewhat less intrusive than what I experience on my office desktop. Neither is good for users, however. The more computer companies see their operating systems as vehicles for converting users to subscription-paying advertising-clicking customers, the more it feels like we are being taken advantage of.

Jeff Burt (Hacker News):

Microsoft is looking for user feedback on ads it’s putting into the Windows 11 Start Menu for its products and services. If responses on Reddit is any indication, the response hasn’t been great.

The software vendor has for months been playing around with putting ads – or at least in the case of the Start Menu, notifications – about its services in the operating system as well as the Bing search engine, PCs, and other products.


With the Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23435 that was dropped into the Dev Channel late last week, the company is “continuing the exploration of badging on the Start menu with several new treatments for users logging in with local user accounts to highlight the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account (MSA),” Amanda Langowski, principal product manager for the Windows Insider Program, and Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

Kyle Barr:

Microsoft’s Windows 11 Start Menu is becoming more and more like a dancing inflatable tube man gesticulating wildly outside a used car lot. The last Windows 11 update added advertisements for Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud backups for some users when they click on the little Windows icon on the desktop. Now the Redmond, Washington company wants to bombard you with more ads for its other “free” services every time you go to sign out.


But more importantly, the company shared details on its controversial in-OS advertising scheme that it’s now dubbed “badging.” These not-ads appear for local user accounts as small messages hovering right above the sign out button when clicking on the Start menu.

Via Nick Heer:

Last year, Microsoft began testing upsell ads in File Explorer. Subscription services have created a conflict of interest for platform builders as they choose to relentlessly promote their revenue opportunities in parts of the system previously treated as users’ space.

Darren Allan:

What’s also a concern here is the flagging of the ad with a yellow warning circle and exclamation point, which suggests that there’s something seriously wrong with your system setup. That’s not fair, and some might argue a cynical way of cajoling less tech-savvy folks into signing up for a Microsoft account (or whatever else the ad might be pushing).

John Gruber (Mastodon):

I’ll sometimes set up as new (and use a spare Apple ID dedicated to testing) to see the factory-fresh Cupertino default experience. Is it too much advertising? I don’t know — but it’s a lot. One thing that’s clear is that Apple sees Music and TV as Apple-service properties. Yes, you can use them for listening to your own music and watching your own video files, but first and foremost these are client apps to Apple’s Music and TV+ services. These are not the iTunes and Video apps of yore.


For the last several weeks, I’ve noticed an ad in Settings on my iPhone, in the iCloud section at the very top of the first screen: “Apple Arcade Free for 3 Months”. The reason this is dumb is that I pay for a family account for Apple One, so we already have Apple Arcade. But here’s Apple badgering me to sign up for a 3-month free trial that I don’t need.


We — including Apple itself and Tim Cook personally — decry the invasiveness of the surveillance advertising complex, by which they develop profiles of us so accurate that the ads they deliver are so on-point to our recent interests that millions of people falsely believe their devices are somehow surreptitiously listening to their real-world conversations. This stupid Apple Arcade prompt in Settings is the opposite: I’m being shown it because Apple knows I recently bought a new device from them, but somehow doesn’t know that I already pay them for a subscription that includes Arcade.

For the last week, CarPlay has been showing a notification circle (no number) on the Music icon, and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it. Nothing popped up when I tapped the icon in the car. I don’t normally use the Music app on iOS, so it’s not on my home screen, but I came across its icon today, saw the notification badge, and tapped it. What has CarPlay been trying to get my attention about all this time? It was yet another solicitation for an Apple Music. I must have opted out a dozen times in the last month or two, and, as previously discussed, even that didn’t prevent me from getting enrolled in a preview that required a phone call to cancel.

Sam Rowlands:

Advertising in OSes is crazy.

  • Apple has adverts for services in the their “Settings” app. They use dark patterns to encourage iCloud subscriptions.
  • Microsoft is adding adverts in the Start Menu.
  • Google, who makes their money from advertising… Doesn’t AFAIK.


IMHO, auto-enabling of these settings from a migration and then asking me to pay, and removing my data if I disabled the settings, can be considered a dark pattern.

Mario Guzman:

I had no clue Apple is asking for App Store reviews on stock, first party apps?! Eww LOL.


Update (2023-05-09): Darren Allan (via Slashdot):

Windows 11’s Settings panel has been seen with a number of adverts in test builds of the OS, in what’s becoming a sadly familiar theme for preview builds of late.

Update (2023-08-23): Andrew Cunningham (via Nick Heer):

This time-honored practice is colloquially called a “clean install,” and it was a cure for most things that ailed a new Windows PC. Computer manufacturers often distributed buggy, pointless, or redundant third-party software (“bloatware” or “crapware”) to help subsidize the cost of the hardware. This might pass some savings on to the user, but once they owned their computer, that software mainly existed to consume disk space and RAM, something that cheaper PCs could rarely afford to spare. Computer manufacturers also installed all kinds of additional support software, registration screens, and other things that generally extended the setup process and junked up your Start menu and desktop.

You can still do a clean install of Windows, and it’s arguably easier than ever, with official Microsoft-sanctioned install media easily accessible and Windows Update capable of grabbing most of the drivers that most computers need for basic functionality. The problem is that a “clean install” doesn’t feel as clean as it used to, and unfortunately for us, it’s an inside job—it’s Microsoft, not third parties, that is primarily responsible for the pile of unwanted software and services you need to decline or clear away every time you do a new Windows install.

Update (2023-08-24): Beebles (via ednl):

If you are setting up Windows 11, select “English (World)” as your language (English Europe also works), and you will have NONE of the third party bloatware installed.

Update (2024-04-30): Tom Warren (via Hacker News, John Gruber):

Microsoft says it’s starting to test ads inside the Start menu on Windows 11. The software maker will use the Recommended section of the Start menu, which usually shows file recommendations, to suggest apps from the Microsoft Store.

“This will appear only for Windows Insiders in the Beta Channel in the US and will not apply to commercial devices (devices managed by organizations),” says Microsoft in a blog post.

The app promotions can be disabled in the Settings section of Windows 11, but it appears that Microsoft will enable these by default.

Dare Obasanjo:

Now that the ads in the Windows 11 start menu are now available I actually think the coverage missed the mark.

This is less a cash grab by Microsoft and more of a way to help the few developers still making Windows apps to get distribution.

Getting developers to still care about building Windows apps has been an ongoing challenge since the advent of the web and then smartphone apps. This seems mainly a way to both incentivize developers and connect users to apps.

Lance Whitney:

Do you use a Start menu alternative or another tool to customize Windows 11's interface? If so, you may be blocked from installing and running such programs when jumping to the upcoming Windows 11 24H2 update.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

The ads in Window 11 are gross, but the fact that there are any on iOS is ridiculous. iOS/Mac users are paying a premium on Appleā€™s hardware for a premium experience.

This, along with all the Pay Later stuff Apple is doing is trashing their image.

The only first-party ad I consistently get on Android is a push notification from the Photos app once every few months, advertising discounts on photo prints.


This transformation of where profit comes from is fascinating and sad to watch. As services becomes bigger for both Apple and Microsoft, we can expect more ads in the OS. Google/ChromeOS/Android may push fewer ads, but they make their money mainly from ads based on data extracted from using the OS. In the end, Google will still end up showing you ads.

remmah: You can turn those off in the photos app notifications settings.

I guess the point is that, while you can turn all of these off (I never see an ad in Microsoft after the first day of a new installation, when I turn all of this off), the fact that this stuff is there to begin with makes these companies inherently untrustworthy.

On Windows it's possible to disable many of those annoying "features" with O&OSU10 and Ultimate Windows Tweaker. On Mac OS and iOS you are mostly out of luck in disabling any of that.

What is the most annoying for me personally is that some Mac OS "features" like News.app will continually waste your resources even though you never want to use it, or even if the service itself is not available in your country. The OS will regularly try to start it and peg one of the cores to 100% for some time, which is very noticeable on an Intel Mac.

So how long before we see a Cory Doctorow piece on the enshittification of Apple?

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