Windows 11 testers are regularly finding new Windows 11 features that Microsoft wasn’t ready to show anyone yet. Sometimes that means digging up a new Task Manager or tabs for the File Explorer. And sometimes it means finding advertisements for other Microsoft products as you browse your own locally stored files.
Microsoft MVP Florian Beaubois found an example of the latter when he saw an ad promoting Microsoft Editor while viewing his Documents folder in a Windows 11 build. In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft Senior Program Manager Brandon LeBlanc acknowledged that the banner ad was genuine, but he said that it had been “experimental” and that it “was not intended to be published externally and was turned off.”
As The Verge notes, “we didn’t mean for anyone to see that” is not a promise to never run ads in Windows Explorer, and Microsoft’s behavior around its Edge browser, Microsoft account requirements, and prompts to try OneDrive and Microsoft 365 all indicate that the company has no problem with this kind of aggressive internal promotion of its own products and services. It’s an unfortunate reality that comes with using a big company’s products—you’ll get promo notifications for Apple TV+ on your iPhone, suggestions that you switch to Chrome when you’re using Gmail, or prominent ads for Alexa-based products every time you try to buy a $6 cable on Amazon.
I don’t particularly want to see prompts for Microsoft Editor in my Documents folder or a banner suggesting that I try Clipchamp in my Videos folder (that second one hasn’t happened—just a possible example that comes to mind). But in my mind, there’s a line between these kinds of generic system-folder-based suggestions and banners based on the actual files or file types I’m working with in Explorer. A broad assumption like “you’re in your documents folder; let me suggest other things related to documents” is annoying, but it doesn’t feel particularly invasive. Any suggestion that Microsoft is gathering and using information about your locally stored files so it can better advertise to you could cross that line.