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Windows Insider gets shown ad in Explorer but Microsoft says it was a mistake

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Update: In a statement to The Verge (opens in new tab), senior Windows program manager Brandon LeBlanc said "This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off.” So it looks like the addition of ads at this point was unintentional.

Extreme Tech (opens in new tab) is convinced the ad placement is a feature we will see rolling back out in the future. Windows has said no such thing, however.


Original story: Microsoft is no stranger to sneaking advertising into its products (opens in new tab), often to public outcry, and it looks like it might be happening again. People are already getting riled up after one Windows Insider has found a small ad bar for Microsoft services in their Explorer window.

The Windows Insider shared a screenshot of the updated explorer window on Twitter (via BleedingComputer (opens in new tab)), where they go by flobo09 (opens in new tab). The image shows a strip line advert below the address bar in Explorer, encouraging users to click a button to find out more about Microsoft Editor. Flobo09 astutely notes that this is something Windows users aren't going to be happy about, which was proven true immediately by the replies to their initial Tweet. 

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Given that Explorer is a pretty fundamental part of using Windows, people are pretty upset. You don't expect to be served up ads while browsing through your own files. Especially given Windows is a paid service from a huge company, as opposed to some free shareware.

However, as Flobo09 notes in other tweets this may well be an overreaction. The ad is very minimal and they suspect it will be an opt out feature. The current ad for Microsoft Editor is also for a service that's free for browsers, and bundled into Microsoft's subscription services for other use.

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Microsoft Editor is just a writing assist tool that picks up on grammar, spelling, and general punctuation. Not a particularly huge or necessary service, and it's one not many people seem to have heard of in the past. It's fairly unlikely someone is going to subscribe just for this, so it feels more like it could be intended as PSA or tip, rather than a straight out ad.

It's still fair to not expect to see this kind of thing in Explorer, and Microsoft do have a history of sneaking in ads (opens in new tab) so it's easy to understand the immediate public outcry. Hopefully this will do some good by alerting Microsoft to what users are hoping to see moving forward, because it sure isn't ads in Explorer. After all, that's what the Insiders and tests like this are for. In the end it could be because of this that Microsoft does make this an optional thing, or find a better way to implement it. 

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast (opens in new tab) right here.

No, she’s not kidding.