Microsoft starts testing ads in the Windows 10 Mail app (Update)

Updated November 16, 2018: It looks like the rollout of ads in Mail was an accident and they're now being turned off. Microsoft communications lead Frank Shaw stated on Twitter: "This was an experimental feature that was never intended to be tested broadly and it is being turned off." The original story follows.

Banner ads may soon be on the way to the stock Mail app in Windows 10. As first reported by Aggiornamenti Lumia, Microsoft is now testing ads in the Mail app with Windows Insiders on the Fast ring, and you'll need an Office 365 subscription to get rid of them.

Starting with Mail version 11605.11029.20059.0, the app will show banner ads in the "Other" section when the Focused Inbox is enabled. The only way to go ad-free is to subscribe to Office 365, which is explained with a new pop-up within the app. However, complicating matters is that you'll see the ads no matter what email provider you're using in the app. For example, you'll see ads even if you're signed in with a Gmail account.

This is sure to cause some consternation among users, as other ads and recommendations peppered throughout Windows 10. Most recently, Microsoft pulled back on a test that promoted Microsoft Edge when Windows 10 users attempted to install a third-party browser, responding to a torrent of backlash the test received. It's possible that ads in Mail could likewise remain a test, never seeing the light of day beyond the Insider program.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

66 Comments
  • Bye Bye Mail App
  • Could be, depends how quickly the ad blockers get on it. Hey WC, could we get an article showing a round up of the best alternative mail and calendar apps for Windows and Windows Mobile ready for the coming exodus, please? I'd read that.
  • It’s called Outlook 2016 or higher. Nothing competes with this. It is simply the standard of email, calendar, tasks and contact management
  • You're going to think me mad, but for business purposes I actually prefer Groupwise.
  • I love that you equate the word "standard" with Outlook 2016. While Outlook might be the desktop standard client, it often is used with an Exchange-based mail server... and there's nothing "standard" about that monstrosity (when it comes to adhering to internet mail standards).
  • Thats a bold satement Dryzziks.
    Exchange sends email to other systems using SMTP (what else would it use) so what is about Exchange that you think is non standard? Access protocols sure (Activesync) but Activesync blows IMAP/SMTP/iCAL combos out the water, not only is it a superior "syncer" over those protocols, but it also has additional APIs for security control and access rights. It was the defacto on-premise solution for over a decade for a reason.
  • I said bye to all those crappy Microsoft Windows 10 apps long time ago. Especially when the alternatives are a million times better. I don't have to wait for Microsoft to gradually add basic features.
  • Only for Focused Inbox? Thank goodness as I never use that and turn that off. I'm sure they'll implement this everywhere, eventually...
  • Can't be true if you see them with non-MS accounts too as is also mentioned in the article, as they don't support focussed inbox functionality. Looks like this article is awaiting further clarification. I'm sure the ad blockers will be all over it though, so not much of a problem.
  • They meant the ads wont show in focused view, as seeing ads would be counter-productive to the idea of focusing. They will still show if you disable focus view.
  • This is better in my opinion than them trying to put ads to everyone, regardless if you are an Office 365 subscriber or not (something that they tried). My issue, is that if you are Office 365 subscriber, the whole app should be app free, even if you add other accounts to it. And, it needs to justify the money they get from the ads. I mean actual, continuous development. In other words, not this side app in Windows which is basic, and gets left out most of the time. It needs to be a product where you have an active team behind it, and continuous development.
  • I am an Office 365 subscriber and I use ad-free Outlook for this reason.
  • But Office users have full Outlook anyway so why bother turning them off in an app they never use? Office users surely won't be using the cut down mail app so won't see the ads anyway? Wouldn't it be more fair to simply charge a small ad removal fee for the mail app instead of making people buy a load of stuff they don't need? That's what most apps do. I would buy that, but there's no way I'm subscribing to Office (especially when I own a copy anyway which I use on my private laptop for work purposes, not on my proper rig of course) just to remove the ads from the email app. I'll just use an ad blocker instead like everyone else. MS could do this smarter.
  • Very true! I didn't think about that at the moment of posting.
  • I subscribe to O365 and I use the Mail app. There is no reason for me to use Outlook, it's just my personal email. We use Gmail for work. Microsoft is being smart, they know general consumers aren't that bothered by ads, not nearly as much as techies, and will just use the app as long as they can reliably get their mail. They aren't going to be looking for ad-blockers.
  • The number of suckers who are going to subscribe to Office just to remove the ads from the Windows email app are vanishingly small. As will be the number who buy an office package and are swayed in their choice by the removal of ads from a cut down version of Outlook. Full Outlook is as simple to use as the cut down version for those basic functions. MS are chasing the pennies when we could have been paying them the pounds. It doesn't matter much to end users because whilst to a man everyone I know is sick to the back teeth with spam, it's easy to buy a much better app than the Windows mail app for a much better price and dodge the MS spambot without issue. Who would use an email client that generates its own spam? It'd drive you up the wall in no time. MS need a better price to compete. Simple marketing... which as we all know is completely foreign to MS.
  • "My issue, is that if you are Office 365 subscriber, the whole app should be app free, even if you add other accounts to it." It's not very clear but I would think that is the case. As long as you have an Office 365 enabled account connected, you wont see ads. As far as justification, if you have an Outlook.com address and you don't subscribe to O365 you're going to see ads when you check your mail in the browser. Being able to circumvent the ads by using the official mail app for the service effectively devalues the ad space of the ad-free proposition of O365. The apps are just catching up and closing that gap.
  • Unfortunately, it happens even if you don't have an Outlook address. It's just a dumb spam generator routine that shoves the stuff into every account it can, it seems.
  • It's time to uninstall it now.
  • I think putting ads in an operating system or any of its core apps is completely unacceptable. Now I'm going to need an ad-blocker for my OS?
  • I completely agree. Just a couple of years ago this is the type of thing I would be happy about not having to deal with because I use Windows and not anything from Google. Now they have become Google.
  • Hard pill to swallow, but this is probably the best thing for Microsoft and the Mail app. This is basically an attempt to push ppl into an Office 365 subscription. And that is what pays the bills. Right? Microsoft is best off pushing out the consumer community at large. Let Google serve the masses of humanity with their free-love business model. While Microsoft focuses on productive ppl who are willing to pony up $9.99 a month for a best in class productivity suite.
  • Well, either way it's being pulled back and "let Google serve the masses humanity" let me ask you, do you really have no qualms of being a product that generates revenue for a corporation??
  • Let me ask you, do you really buy into the shibboleth that voluntarily giving a company your data makes "you" a "product"? Or is that just bullshit Jaron Lanier uses to sell books?
  • @Andrew G1, how do you think Google makes money? They sell advertisers your data, your telemetry based on behavioural patterns and shopping habits. To do so they screen your email, apply a random but unique identifier on you, thus you have become a number (A inconsequential number at that). So that you get targeted adverts therefore increasing the likelihood of you clicking that random banner and buying a product. Now the next step is to predict what you want before you know you want a product and that answer is within your genetic make up. Lo and Behold, we have DNAstack - Google's genomic database for people. Okay, another example Facebook - a company that does not create physical product itself (not counting acquisitions) but is worth billions. Wonder why? Because they have data and advertisers want that data. The other facets are interaction and engagement, the more interaction + engaged a user is within a service the more data they generate. Thus more data they can sell to advertisers and so on. Another example, snapchat it makes money through that method I mentioned - interaction and engagement. Through all that data is the commodity and access to you through data is sold. Hence in the simplest terms - you are the product, the end user and intended target audience. Now, here is the crux of it an average person has about several hundred contacts. Make a service compelling enough and mandatory through social trends + social economics you will get other people to join that service. Then they will get other people to join that service and so on - this is called "the word of mouth" it's the oldest form and the gold mine of marketing. On the flipside, greater the reward, greater the risk hence when it goes badly wrong - it's called the "court of public opinion". Which is why there is specific job title for person or department who handles that - Public Relations or PR. Anyway, I have no idea who this Lanier bloke is... at all... Next time think before you project your own bias on others.
  • Jump ship to Thunderbird!
  • Google does it in Gmail, so why not Microsoft?
    After all, nothing is free.
  • Gmail is free and ad supported. Windows is a paid product, be it sold individually or bundled with a computer you bought. I suppose you could say the same about advertising on cable tv though...
  • I never buy a channel that shows ads. Hence no cable TV or Sky satellite for me. Auntie Beeb shows no ads. Netflix shows no ads. ITV etc. show ads and charge me nothing. Fair enough.
  • Maybe because MS wasn't as dirty as Google before. They were the "better man". At this point if they are going to act like Google, there is less and less reason for most people to use MS anymore.
  • And neither is Windows free. How about they make an ad supported version of Windows and keep these things out of the paid version? We bought Windows because we didn't want the Google approach. Not because we love ads.
  • Outlook web app, understandable The default Mail app in Windows 10, not cool.
  • Well... I really hate to be "that guy", but your comment is just begging for a reply: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux or https://freebsd.org or https://openbsd.org or https://www.trueos.org/ (And yes, while there are paid versions of all of the above, at their very core all of them are indeed 100% free as in beer *and* speech). Are these ideal operating systems for the average person? Probably not. But they are free, and do not include ads in their mail applications nor anywhere else in the OS. For that matter, neither does macOS. I'm not saying that you should run out and install a Linux or BSD OS, or go buy a MacBook Pro - but aside from Google, none of Microsoft's *OS* competitors include ads in their operating systems.
  • Really getting tired of seeing ads, that's why I purchase Office 365.
    I put myself in the shoes of someone using W10 & the mail app for the first time ever.
    What would make Microsoft products appeal to me? Flooding me with ads doesn't differentiate Microsoft from other cheap alternatives.
    Microsoft could increase its business better by standing taller than the others.
    Yes, they need to market products, but they could give compelling reasons as to why to purchase a product, such as offering more and exciting options rather than look like they're only about money.
  • You hit it. If they are going to be a sdirty as Google now, there is zero reason for anyone to stay in their ecosystem. Google offers more with the same ads, privacy invasion and tracking.
  • So you mean that MS is now going to do what Gmail has always been doing in the Gmail app on Android which is fine when Google does it but not when Microsoft does? These ads are clearly identified and no one is forced to view them. I delete them as soon as I open the Mail app and usually do that before the ad finishes loading. Get over it.
  • You didn't pay to use Gmail. That is not the case when Windows 10. It is very expensive.
  • My Windows 10 cost me £0.00, how is that expensive?
  • And also for 500 million of users who I'm sure got windows 10 for free. Bleached is just an ******* nothing else.
  • When you replace your current device you will pay for Windows as part of the hardware cost.
  • Not exactly you can still activate your old key in your new PC if your pc is connected to Microsoft account or you can ask customer care for that. They will help to activate your key in your new pc. Only thing you have to do is not use your old pc with same key. I have done it many times.
  • And you don't do the same with any Android phone? And you pay $1000+ for a Samsung device with less power than a Windows computer at the same price -- and you're still being spoon fed ads from Google. It's a sad double standard.
  • Pirates are a different problem. For everyone else, Windows is not free (except for Ol' Nads of course).
  • While some indeed upgraded for free, there are some who also bought a license for their other PCs
  • Windows is not free. You have to purchase a license to use it. You may have received a few update to Windows 10, but you paid for that license somewhere along the line.
  • I paid nothing, I had A FREE UPGRADE from Windows 7. Windows 7 licence doesn't state "the cost includes a fee for an upgrade licence in the future". I paid for Windows 7, didn't have to pay for Windows 10, understand?
  • The intricacies of Windows licensing aside, I note that pound for pound consumer Windows machines are good deal cheaper than their commercial alternative.
  • Never sold on the Mail app anyway, so if ads come to it I will just use something else.
  • My reaction to this is: They can go F*** themselves.
    Ads should not be in any app that comes with the OS. I use the mail app for my personal email and keep Outlook for work. They do their jobs and they're kept separate. I've found the mail app to be useful, but if you start shoving apps in my face it'll be forcefully removed. I'd either have to adapt the network-wide ad blocking or find a new alternative. All MS are doing by shoving ads in core apps is gaining bad publicity, ******* people off and making them choose an alternative app. Maybe that's their plan? Annoy everyone that people refuse to use it so they no longer have to maintain it? Wouldn't put it past them... I really hope this never gets properly implemented.
  • See article update. It's not happening.
  • Not yet, but reading that update it very much sounds like MS got caught out by a leak. I sort of hope some employee did it intentionally.
  • http://archive.is/P5uNP
  • Oh great. So when you buy a premium device like surface, you're also getting ads? Ugh. Ads will just cheapen the experience. Macs will feel even more premium. Dont like MS turning into google....
  • That's a damn shame..
  • So that's why focused view was implemented in the first place. Glad I never used it and I will gladly switch my mail client if they indeed force this upon their users that bought the OS for $100.
  • Then why use the app, when Web app is much better and both have ads?
  • "Experimental feature"? I don't see how that is a feature.
  • The update says there are no ads. Get some gonads.
  • I sure as hope it never sees the light of day again as It would be a PR nightmare.
  • Sure it was "aCciDenTal" http://archive.is/P5uNP
  • How does this prove otherwise? Even if it was a feature they were just going to test doesn't mean they wouldn't write FAQs for it.
  • Soon Windows will be an ad platform that has nifty features like file manager and plays music...with ads thrown in every minute.
  • Nearly the whole US and western countries economy is based on advertisement. As long as the Ads are passive and do not interfere in app interactions I can tolerate it. But if the ads are aggressive and pop up every few minutes then MS will loose its customers sooner than later....
  • I don't want to buy office 365 because I don't need the premium features. If MS isn't getting enough money from Windows OS, then they should've to collect money the pirated Windows users. I think it's time to turn off automatic updates to avoid the ad-integrated outlook update.
  • Well said v rocker 👍
  • And people here defended it. Of course. Also, the predictable Whataboutism with people screaming "But Google, but Google." Funny, Windows 10 apologists still deny there are ads in the OS, too. What a strange conundrum having to deny them on one site while defending them on another.