The days of the classic Start menu are numbered in Windows. Previously, the Start menu was used by users to launch programs, access system tools and settings, and run searches.
Now, with the release of Windows 10 and more with Windows 11, comes a fundamental change that turns the Start Menu into a delivery system for advertising.
The Windows 11 Start menu displays a list of pinned apps, a search option, and a menu that displays all installed programs. There is also a recommended section available, more on that later.
Microsoft is testing several additions to the Start menu that will introduce advertising to it. We recently mentioned two additions that we are aware of: websites lists under recommendedAnd one ad in account menu when users activate it to use functions such as switching users or logging out.
Some of them are used to promote Microsoft services, especially those related to subscriptions or data sharing. Others, like the aforementioned website recommendations in the Start Menu, promote third-party services.
In the example provided by Microsoft, the websites Etsy and Twitter were promoted as “common websites” in the recommended section of the Start menu.
Microsoft provides the following description for the feature:
“We’ve been working on adding more valuable content to the Recommended section in Start and are excited to introduce a new type of content: websites.
For the first phase, we’ll recommend common websites based on your region or browsing history to help you easily return to the websites you care about. This can be controlled by right-clicking on a website and choosing to remove that website individually or stop displaying all recommended websites altogether.”
The company suggests that website recommendations are a type of “valuable content” it is currently working on to improve the operating system’s Start menu. The feature derives sites from the user’s browsing history and a list of common regional websites. Although Microsoft makes no mention of it, it’s likely that only Edge’s browsing history is one of the sources of the feature.
Granted, users can remove individual websites from Start or disable the feature entirely, according to Microsoft. Microsoft refers to the current implementation as phase one, suggesting that the company plans to change the feature in the future. However, information is missing on how the next phase might look.
It is not known for which group of users Microsoft created the lists of websites under recommendations. Generic lists display only the site name; users who know about them don’t need them listed here, and users who don’t know about them may not click because they don’t know about these sites.
It appears to be just another way to trick users into using Microsoft Edge, the browser that opens when users activate links in the Start menu.
Last year I wrote Windows 11 Start menu is barely usable. The launch of Windows 11 and the redesigned Start menu reduced its functionality compared to Windows 10. Microsoft removed several features, including the ability to resize the Start menu. Some, like the ability to create folders, were reintroduced in Windows 11 2022 Update, but some weren’t.
The fixed design, with the pinned section at the top and the featured section below, is still not customizable. Users can hide all recommended itemsbut the recommended section remains visible, but with an empty region.
Microsoft’s recent testing of Insider builds suggests that the company wants to add promotions to the Start menu and less to make it more usable for Windows operating system users.
Now you: what do you think of this development?