Microsoft was just playing with Mail ads and turned them off

Giles Ensor avatar. By: Giles Ensor
3 minute read

Home » Microsoft was just playing with Mail ads and turned them off

The symbiosis of the internet and advertising has long been understood. Everyone understands that if you have access to something that is ‘free’, inasmuch as you don’t have to pay financially for it, then something else must pay for it.

Microsoft’s Mail client ‘experiments’ with ads

It’s fair to say that no one expects something for free. Gmail wouldn’t be Gmail if it weren’t for Google Ads. There would be far fewer blogs if affiliate marketing didn’t exist. And apps would be far less prolific without in-app advertising. However, there has always been an unwritten rule that if you pay for something, then whatever you pay for should be free of advertising.

The problem is that there now seems to be a movement that is rewriting that unwritten rule. And Microsoft is certainly one of those companies doing the rewriting.

Windows is not free of advertising

Last week, I wrote an an article all about how to block personalised ads in Windows 10 apps. However, during my research I discovered that ads were not just being shown in apps, but in numerous other places including:

  • The Start menu
  • Cortana search
  • Action Centre
  • The lock screen
  • Live tiles
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Windows Ink

The argument goes that if someone is paying for something, in this case an entire operating system, then that person should not have to endure being bombarded by ads. Apparently, this is not the case.

Microsoft toys with adverts inside Mail client

And now, we have learned that Microsoft has been ‘experimenting’ with the idea of advertising inside its Mail client. It’s true that since the initial discovery, Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw tweeted,

This was an experimental feature that was never intended to be tested broadly and it is being turned off.

But the fact of the matter is that a company is highly unlikely to get as far as Microsoft did if it were just an experiment that was not intended to be used.

Companies are more than okay with the concept of introducing something, backpedaling when they realize the the gig is up, only to reintroduce it once they realize they can get away with it, normally with a bit of slick PRing.

The problem is that when a company has a market share of over 90%, as Microsoft has with Windows, there is a risk that what the customer thinks does not matter because what can the customer do about it?

Balancing the needs of the company and the customer

Advertising is a necessary evil if the internet is to survive as it is, but paid-for products are not the internet. Many people not only want but expect that if they pay for something, whether it is an app, a program, or an operating system, it should be advertising-free.

It will be interesting to see how far Microsoft is prepared to test this and how much its Windows users are prepared to tolerate it.

What do you think about advertising on Windows? Do you feel that Microsoft has the right to advertise as it sees fit, or do you feel that if you pay for something, it should be free of advertising? Let us know in the comments below.

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