Microsoft's Big Hidden Windows 8 Feature: Built-In Advertising

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News Posted: Wed, Nov 7 2012 10:25 PM

Despite the fact that I've been using Windows 8 for the past three weeks, I somehow managed to overlook a rather stark feature in the OS: ads. No, we're not talking about ads cluttering up the desktop or login screen (thankfully), but rather ads that can be found inside of some Modern UI apps that Windows ships with. That includes Finance, Weather, Travel, News and so forth. Is it a problem? Let's tackle this from a couple of different angles.

The Modern UI (Metro) interface of Windows 8 essentially delivers a mobile experience on whatever device it's used on, be it a desktop, notebook or tablet. On previous mobile platforms, such as iOS and Android, seeing ads inside of free apps hasn't been uncommon. It's a way for the developer to get paid while allowing the user to have the app for free. That's where the first big difference comes in. While people can expect ads in a free app, no one expects ads in a piece of software that they just paid good money for. I actually can't think of another immediate example where a piece of paid software shows ads.

But there are other angles to look at this from. People subscribe to cable, and see ads. However, the difference there is that's a recurring subscription, and it could be assumed that without ads, cable fees would be much higher. Then there's the fact that the apps inside of the Modern UI are all Internet-capable, so in a sense, they all act like their own customized browser. We're used to seeing ads on websites, so is this really that different? It's hard to say, but again, as free services, that's to be expected.

The answer of just how wrong Microsoft is to cram advertisements in its commercial software will differ from person to person, I'm sure. Me, I'm not too bothered, but I can totally relate to anyone who is. From all I can tell, none of the ads are intrusive, and I appreciate that. As for them being in paid software, that doesn't bother me either because of that above fact. However, I am bothered by other aspects.

The biggest mistake here on Microsoft's behalf is that no one is made aware of these ads until they happen to stumble on them. No one is going to expect ads to be loaded in their paid-for OS, so a notification of that at first boot would be appreciated. Further, no one is given the option to disable them (though I'm sure it'd take little more than an editing of the hosts file). Finally, there's also the fact that these ads haven't decreased the price of the OS, else that'd be a point Microsoft would no doubt flaunt.

We can't talk about the inclusion of ads and not mention the "T" word: tracking. I haven't been able to find any information on whether or not Microsoft's tracking the ads you are clicking on, but if that is indeed the case, we'll find out soon enough. Unlike Windows 7 and earlier, your entire Windows 8 account can be tied to an e-mail account, so it would be rather easy for Microsoft to track things on a personal level - much like how Google does with its search engine, e-mail and so forth. This alone gives good reason to be concerned.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you okay with Microsoft infusing the Modern UI with ads? Would you ever be interested in a less expensive version of Windows that was ad-supported?

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 8 2012 6:38 AM

Just type "sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping", or uncheck the option in system settings.

Oh wait, on Windows.... just live with it.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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JDiaz replied on Thu, Nov 8 2012 11:39 AM

He's talking about the Apps having ads, not the OS!

Anyway, apparently MS is doing this to promote the In-App Ads capabilities to garner advertisement business. So far 25 brands, including Coca-Cola, Ford and Samsung, have signed up.

So we may or may not see Ads in future paid Apps, since right now it's promotional.

Mind MS is spending hundreds of million, with possibly upwards towards a billion world wide, on advertisement for Windows 8. So they're not considering just the cost of the software and they are trying to set up some new business models going forward.

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Nov 8 2012 11:48 AM

>> "He's talking about the Apps having ads, not the OS!"

Built-in apps are as much a part of the OS as Unity plug-ins are - they both come with the system, and you never have to use either. So, either both are part of the OS, or neither are. At least the ones in Unity are showing you things you're searching for.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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RTietjens replied on Thu, Nov 8 2012 12:13 PM

There are two third-party programs I consider absolutely necessary with Windows 8: Classic Shell, and Hostsman. The former gives you back the Start Menu, so you aren't constantly seeing that eyesore called "modern UI," and the other completely blocks thousands of malicious Web sites - including the major advertising services.

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JDiaz replied on Thu, Nov 8 2012 1:04 PM

No, Apps are Apps regardless of whether they come pre-installed or not. It won't change the OS UI if they are there or not!

Besides, the point of the article is they're putting it in paid apps!

Free Apps are pretty much expected to have Ads these days but people aren't used to getting them in paid Apps.

The comparison to desktop Linux is also flawed because there isn't a business model for desktop Linux Apps, most are Open Source and free, along with a smaller user base to earn enough income via adverts.

While the MS App business model is like the one Google and Apple are using.

Though I'm sure we'll start seeing ads on desktop Linux once options like Valve's Steam become available and introduce pay for games/apps business model...

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The only adds i have seen have been on the webpages which is standard, and some of the free apps i have downloaded. I get the same thing on my android phone with some free apps nothing really new or anything....

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Alright, that made me LOL. Good one.

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The difference is that these apps come included with the OS you paid for. We're not talking about third-party apps here. I don't recall ever coming across a first-party app bundled with a phone that had ads in it.

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I agree on many points here. The sad thing is though, if Ubuntu implemented ads like Microsoft did here, people would be burning Canonical at the stake... that's a fact. Just look at how people treated the introduction of the Amazon ads in the latest release. And this... for a 100% cost-free OS! If companies like Canonical didn't need money, things like that wouldn't be implemented. I am quite certain the $40 - $200 people pay for a Windows license more than takes care of the need to introduce ads into the OS.

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Been using win8 for a while now. Even in the free apps I've downloaded not an advert to be seen. What kind of timeframe are we looking at here I wonder.

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vitriolix replied on Fri, Nov 9 2012 10:12 AM

Kindle Fire has ads in the OS.

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Aeo replied on Fri, Nov 9 2012 10:49 AM

I've been saying this to my friends for a while now. A few believed me. Everything in Windows 8 that has been done just SCREAMS that they are trying to move Windows to the Xbox route.

By default, you are stuck with the Metro interface. Ads in apps? Sure. Wait till they start putting the ads on the main metro interface. The metro "solution" to the start screen. This is what they do on Xbox, so it's not like they've not got a record of it.

And to help prevent you from ad-blocking, by default they ignore the hosts file. No more telling the OS that the ad servers are hosted on your local machine.

And just wait for the subscription service. Xbox you pay per month for the privilege of connecting over your own internet connection using your own hardware to another person's hardware to play a game online. The only thing the microsoft servers do is say "Hey, there's a game over here.". Oh, and they serve ads. - They're already known to be considering a subscription service for MS Office. Is a Windows subscription really all that far out?

I seem to recall them even saying you can play xbox games on Windows 8 PCs. That brings the xbox ecosystem itself right into Windows 8.

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Amazon is selling the Kindle Fire roughly at cost. I don't have a Kindle Fire: are the ads for stuff that Amazon sells? Does clicking on an ad take you to an Amazon page? If so, that's the whole idea behind the Kindle Fire.

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jjljr replied on Fri, Nov 9 2012 5:43 PM

simple solution for everyone. get a Mac. problem solved.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Nov 9 2012 6:52 PM

> " there isn't a business model for desktop Linux Apps"

Then... you proceed to mention Steam, and its traditional business model. :\  Valve's not exactly the first company to do that on Linux.  This might shock you, but Ubuntu has an entire store/"Software Center" that will sell you apps... and was doing so before Windows.

On Linux, there is every model present on Windows.  I've bought apps on many occasions - it's just that most app-creating entities lean towards service models that only charge business clients instead.  If you think Linux is thriving because no one knows how to get paid, you're wrong; many of the contributors are paid to do their work by large corporations.

> "Free Apps are pretty much expected to have Ads these day"

Except on Linux, where a huge percentage of apps are free, and damn near *zero* of them have Ads.  I was being gracious by mentioning the Unity stuff, which you can easily disable - or sidestep completely by using more than a dozen other freely available desktops.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Because Apple think their OS as a platform, but MS think their's as a just another profitable product.

I'm not sure which one is better than the other, but I don't think Ads are long-term solution.

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JDiaz replied on Fri, Nov 9 2012 11:05 PM

" This might shock you, but Ubuntu has an entire store/"Software Center" that will sell you apps... and was doing so before Windows."

Sorry, not news and it doesn't change anything stated! Fact remains that has never been the main business model for linux, especially for Open Source Advocates! Also doesn't change that until now that it has never had strong ties to other major companies but bringing in companies like Valve does!

Besides, the point is it's part of companies like Valve's business model and Apps acquired through them will likely have In-App advertisement and you will not likely be able to get rid of them!

"If you think Linux is thriving because no one knows how to get paid, you're wrong; many of the contributors are paid to do their work by large corporations."

Some are but that isn't the point to many who use Linux, especially the Open Source advocates! Also, there isn't the same incentive for developers to really invest their time as there are for more traditional business models. Thus why Linux still lacks many of the more advance software packages.

Solutions like gimp are no replacement for Photoshop, ditto for advance audio and video editing applications.

"Except on Linux, where a huge percentage of apps are free, and damn near *zero* of them have Ads."

You're confusing what used to be with what will be happening! The business model is going to change as Valve and others start to entering the Linux market and In-App advertisement will probably the least of the changes it will bring.

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Nargg replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:23 AM

First, this is NOT Windows 8. These are Bing apps. Bing survives off advertising. You can remove these apps and install 3rd party. Remember, this is Windows, and you DO have freedom of choice of what you run and why. Also, why does THIS SITE have so much advertising? Seriously, be careful to not roll your mouse over a double underlined word in the article! You'll be redirected to an unknown 3rd party web site if your not carefull on this site. Bad Verge, Bad.

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Nargg replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:25 AM

Not, these ads are not in Windows, they are in the Bing apps which can be unpinned and not used. So no, you don't have to live with it you idiot.

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Nargg replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:26 AM

Editing the hosts file is a stupid thing to do. At least it will slow your system down. At worst, it will cause some apps to not work at all.

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Nargg replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:29 AM

I guess you don't own a newer device then? Many new devices with Android are more and more coming with ads built into the included apps. Not to mention many tracking methods turned on and you are unable to turn them off.

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Nargg replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 10:30 AM

Wow. Just wow! You really have no idea what your giving up in the way of privacy with a Mac do you?

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You have identified a trivial feature of a few apps, not a "Big Hidden Windows 8 Feature".

Nor is "Further, no one is given the option to disable them (though I'm sure it'd take little more than an editing of the hosts file). " accurate. You can simply uninstall the Finance, News, and Weather Apps if you find the ads intrusive. To do so, right click on the app in question, and then select Uninstall.

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 2:52 PM

"companies like Valve's business model and Apps acquired through them will likely have In-App advertisement and you will not likely be able to get rid of them!"

Hmmm... nothing like that came with my OS.  Nor, is it likely to - thanks to the way open-source operating systems work.  If I choose to pay for adverts, fine:  I know what's coming - it's not at all like the stealthiness of the ads which this article implies.

"Solutions like gimp are no replacement for Photoshop,"

For the vast majority of us, they are. I'm a guy who took actual for-pay Photoshop classes years ago, and since leaving I've never been wanting for a feature. I used Gimp several times this week, with ease.  Point me to one thing on this site that can be done with Photoshop, but not Gimp. The world wonders.

" Thus why Linux still lacks many of the more advance software packages."

I suppose that would depend on your definition of 'advanced', since Linux runs just about everything - including more than 90% of the worlds supercomputers and server farms. A few security-plagued Adobe and Microsoft products does not the world make.  When anything is so 'important' as to be necessary, it has always appeared (most times before the Windows version).

"You're confusing what used to be with what will be happening!"

And you're confusing your ability to predict/control the future with reality.  Nothing Valve is doing changes anything in the Linux ecosystem - it just makes it easier to purchase some closed-source games for those of us that don't find that idea offensive.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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RWilliams replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 5:17 PM

That's disabling the entire app that comes with your paid-for OS, not just the ad. There's quite a major difference there.

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bdc1000 replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 8:05 PM

Install the Google Windows 8 App and open it. Do a search. What do you see in the results at the top and right of the app? ADs These are Bing Apps and not Windows 8 OS ads. You can remove these apps at any time.

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JDiaz replied on Sat, Nov 10 2012 9:22 PM

"Hmmm... nothing like that came with my OS. Nor, is it likely to - thanks to the way open-source operating systems work."

Nope, because when they bring things like Valve's Steam to Linux that means they're also bring non-open source software!

Having a Open Source OS won't change that! For the most part Windows has traditionally been very customizable too, at least by people who had sufficient level of knowledge. Windows users just had to deal with DRM and other closed source issues much more than Linux users, but changing the market ecosystem can bring all the same issue to Linux too!

Really, Android is Open Source too but you don't see any easy way to stop In-App ads there either!

"For the vast majority of us, they are. I'm a guy who took actual for-pay Photoshop classes years ago, and since leaving I've never been wanting for a feature. I used Gimp several times this week, with ease. Point me to one thing on this site that can be done with Photoshop, but not Gimp. The world wonders."

There's a ton of things you can do with Photoshop but not Gimp. Really, point to a single business that uses Gimp commercially instead of Photoshop?

Gimp is functional and you can do a lot, but Photoshop is easier to use, has more features and capabilities, and has far more support behind it.

Besides, what vast majority? Vast majority of people aren't using Gimp! Vast majority of desktop PC users aren't even using Linux.

"I suppose that would depend on your definition of 'advanced', since Linux runs just about everything - including more than 90% of the worlds supercomputers and server farms. A few security-plagued Adobe and Microsoft products does not the world make. When anything is so 'important' as to be necessary, it has always appeared (most times before the Windows version)."

Sorry but the facts are that those products make money and are used by professional! There's nothing really security plagued about them! MS isn't on the top ten list anymore of vulnerable software! And most of Adobe's issue is with Flash and not major products like Photoshop.

While most of that 90% is not desktop Linux! Many servers don't even use a GUI and tend to have custom software! So hardly compare!

"And you're confusing your ability to predict/control the future with reality. Nothing Valve is doing changes anything in the Linux ecosystem - it just makes it easier to purchase some closed-source games for those of us that don't find that idea offensive."

Wrong, first thing Valve isn't going to just sell games on Steam. They're going to be making it a general purpose App Store. Second, the point is you'll have the same issue with In-App ads no matter the OS and the Linux app ecosystem is going to change when you start introducing App market system like Valve will offer, which won't be the only change but just the first of many.

While what MS is doing isn't the first time paid apps have had ads. It's just not something usually done, but even Android has the occasional paid app with Ads. Video games have long had ads regardless of whether they were free or paid.

So it's more a question of whether MS intends this to be regular or whether it's just promotional to get advertising companies to sign up with them.

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MCaddick replied on Sun, Nov 11 2012 6:17 AM

Let alone your soul.

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RiCoFrost replied on Mon, Nov 12 2012 12:27 AM

I have no adds any any application I have installed that i own, people making out like they add ads everywhere are just plan dumb and over reacting. The adds are in free apps which is where they make their money from.

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I'm using a UK version of Win8 on a Surface tablet and I see none of these ads - is this just a US phenomenon....?

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digitaldd replied on Thu, Nov 15 2012 10:43 AM

geoffwhite:

I'm using a UK version of Win8 on a Surface tablet and I see none of these ads - is this just a US phenomenon....?

No idea on that specifically i have not seen any ads in any paid apps on my Win 8 pro system. But you can do some quick testing open the weather app and scroll a few screens to the right do you see a banner add anywhere? try the same with the sports app or news app. Sometimes I will ocassionally spot and ad here and there while looking deeply into a Metro/Win 8 style app.  

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Lizard replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 11:08 PM

"Really, Android is Open Source too but you don't see any easy way to stop In-App ads there either!"

But it is easy. Just install adfree android. Works great.

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Lizard replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 11:16 PM

Oops. Sorry, that's only for rooted phones.

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JDiaz replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 12:18 AM

Besides, we were talking about easy ways to do it with the OS... No advantage in using a 3rd party app as you can do that with Windows too and without rooting...

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Thanks for sharing this nice post. Windows 8 is Microsoft's next generation operating system and Windows 8 features are easy to use for desktops, laptops and tablets users.

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uwopaplsdn replied on Tue, Apr 16 2013 11:00 PM

From a different perspective.... I'm a novice consumer. Usually OSX. Started using Windows only to see what the rest of the world is seeing. I came across the ads in the preinstalled Weather. After I realized that I can't get rid of the ads (why I am here), it made me nauseous. I can't wait to quit working and go off the Google/MS grid. Although I am sure that I am too late.

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