Microsoft is in the hot seat from none other than one of its Windows Pioneers, over aggressive advertising in its Edge web browser.
Microsoft Edge has replaced Internet Explorer as the main web browser shipped with Windows. Based on Chromium, Edge offers a number of improvements over its predecessor.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has been in the habit of dropping “suggestions” — who are they kidding…they’re ads — in the Start Menu almost since the debut of Windows 10. The “suggestions” push the company’s software, such as Edge, over rival options.
The company appears to be taking that approach to a new level, using popups within Edge to make recommendations to users. Charles Petzold — a programmer, author of Programming Windows and one of the seven Windows Pioneers recognized by Microsoft for their contributions to the platform — is one such individual.
In a blog post entitled “Screw You, Microsoft Edge,” Petzold describes shopping for a book online, only to have Edge display a popup recommending the same purchase from a different store.
Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed. Mr. Petzold describes his take:
Excuse me? The assumption that I need help buying a book is the biggest insult I’ve encountered on Windows since the days of Clippy.
A further insult is the implication that I make buying decisions based solely on price. There might be numerous reasons why I choose one retailer over another for my book purchases. I might prefer a retailer that focuses solely on books, or a retailer that is not a large chain. More generally, I might make a decision based on the company’s carbon footprint, or perhaps their reputation in paying fair wages, or what political candidates and movements they support, or whether the CEO uses his wealth to launch himself into space.
Dealing with advertising in free platforms and services is one thing, and an expected trade-off for free. It’s incredibly hard to imagine any legitimate justification for advertising, or “suggestions,” in a platform individuals and businesses have paid for.