Do you use the default Mail client on your PC, the one that comes with Windows 10, to read your email? How would you feel if Microsoft decided to throw in a few ads right at the top of your inbox?
These aren’t rhetorical questions — as Windows news site Aggiornamenti Lumia noticed today, Microsoft is already testing that exact idea in a number of countries around the world. According to Microsoft’s FAQ, what we’re seeing is a pilot program, an experiment, a test that’ll theoretically help the company decide if it should actually roll out the feature for real.
Update, 11:52 AM PT: Microsoft comms head Frank Shaw tells us the company has decided to turn these ads off. He also says the experiment was never intended to be tested broadly, which doesn’t quite jibe with the existence of a FAQ about a pilot program taking place in several countries around the world, but either way the ads should be gone.
This was an experimental feature that was never intended to be tested broadly and it is being turned off.— Frank X. Shaw (@fxshaw) November 16, 2018
Original article continues:
But it’s pretty unusual for a simple A/B test to have such a well thought out plan for getting your dollars: if you want to opt out, Microsoft says it’ll only cost you the typical $7 a month ($70 a year) for an Office 365 Personal subscription.
Let’s take Microsoft at its word that this is just a pilot program, though, one that might vanish as quickly as it came, as my colleague Tom Warren does below. If so, now is precisely your chance to give Microsoft some valuable feedback — maybe how you don’t want ads in a program that you (presumably) already bought and paid for?
There are reports Microsoft is adding ads to the Windows 10 Mail app. Before everyone freaks out, this is just in A/B testing and doesn’t 100% mean it’s coming at all— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) November 16, 2018
(Personally, I got Windows 10 for free when I upgraded from Windows 7 — but generally, when you buy or build a new Windows PC, part of the cost goes toward a copy of Windows.)
On the plus side, Microsoft says it won’t read the contents of your email or calendar when it’s targeting you with these ads, unlike Yahoo and AOL. (Google stopped scanning the contents of email for ads targeting in 2017.) But Microsoft will try to target the ads.
And it’s not the only user-unfriendly land grab we’ve seen Microsoft test out recently. Microsoft aborted a short-sighted attempt to scare people away from Google’s Chrome web browser in September, and it tried to shuffle Mail users to its Microsoft Edge browser any time they clicked a link, back in March.
Based on a couple reports from Twitter users, Microsoft may have been already testing these ads for months now — these two are from July:
Oh there are ads in Windows Mail now? Guess I’m switching email client. I used to like Thunderbird but it’s ugly as sin. Any recommendations? #email #Windows10— Michael Bowerman (@Mikey_PB) July 22, 2018
Really like Windows Mail, but the last few days, ads have started popping up at the top of my inboxes so that’s really pissed me off.— Nick Zuccarelli (@nick_zuccarelli) July 25, 2018