Here we go again: Microsoft's popping up ads from the Windows 10 toolbar

Can't we just put an end to this already?

When Microsoft’s Windows 10 deadline passed, many heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that Microsoft’s obnoxious popup reminders had finally been laid to rest.

Surprise! Microsoft’s at it again, reminding users to sign up for Bing Rewards by using Edge, Windows 10’s built-in browser. My colleague Brad Chacos was hit by the ad above after hours, reported it, and immediately erased Edge from his toolbar.

Here’s what we know: The popup doesn’t seem to appear if you use Edge frequently (Brad does not). Personally, I’ve never experienced a similar ad, though I use Edge as well as Bing Rewards, meaning there’s no need for such an ad to appear.

A notification here, a suggestion there: Microsoft’s gently slipped in promotions for Office as well as its third-party apps off and on since Windows 10 was launched, and then sneakily reset those options once the Anniversary Update launched last summer. (Here’s a list to turn off those Windows 10 ads if you’re still seeing them.)

But here’s the problem. Brad turned off his ad settings; the Anniversary Update reinstated them. Brad says he turned off the ad settings again—and once again, Microsoft reinstated them.

Please, not this stuff again

And that’s not the only Edge promo that Microsoft is slipping in, either.

Maybe an ad isn’t the worst thing in the world. But we can all remember the mind-warping rage Microsoft’s Windows 10 “reminders” engendered: first a ”Recommended” update, then repeated nagware, then an outrageous reversal of conventional UI that made clicking the red-x Close button to escape the upgrade an opt-in to kick off the upgrade process itself. Say what you will about the Windows 10 OS and its nosy assistant, Cortana—that’s entirely different from Microsoft’s tactics for invading your desktop to remind you to try out a new service.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

Microsoft’s mission to promote Edge

I personally like Bing and Bing Rewards: if you’re going to search the web, you may as well let Microsoft buy you a cup of coffee. With enough activity, you can pretty much pay for a year of Xbox Live Gold.

I also think Microsoft Edge was one of the most underrated features in Windows 10’s Anniversary Update. It was simply awful when Windows 10 launched but has steadily improved since then. Other users haven’t been nearly so patient, leaving both of Microsoft’s browsers, Internet Explorer and Edge, in droves—by Computerworld’s calculations, a whopping 300 million or so users since January. That’s a third of a billion users who have chosen Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or one of several other smaller browsers instead.

I’m on record as someone who called on Microsoft to promote its new Office features—in part, to justify users' paying a monthly fee for Office 365. If Microsoft hadn’t so egregiously crossed the line with its upgrade reminders, I’m not sure how many users would care.

But there’s a middle ground between promoting new features and respecting users. Microsoft’s tried a number of tactics to bring users back to the Edge fold. In addition to the carrot of Bing Rewards, it’s tied Cortana to Bing and the Edge browser. It’s slowly added the extensions other browsers have featured for years. It’s also tried gimmicky features like the ability to ink a Web page, which probably haven’t done much to win fans.

Turning on ads after a user has turned them off, repeatedly: Come on. There’s always been some part of Microsoft that can’t resist crossing the line: Think “Scroogled,” or “astroturfing.” Privately, other Microsoft employees have said they’re embarrassed by it.

It may seem a bit petty to get up in arms about a small Edge promotion. But we’ve gone down this road before, and there’s a lot of us that want to ensure we never do again.

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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