Windows 11 speculation has once again turned to the topic of personalized recommendations within the Start menu, and it seems that a feature which Microsoft discarded may be back on the drawing board.
The feature in question is recommended websites, which could pop up alongside other existing recommendations at the bottom of the Start menu (commonly used apps, suggested files and so forth).
You can enable website recommendations in 25247+ (and 23403) with this ViVeTool command:vivetool /enable /id:40059556 (TopSitesRecommendations)This was tested in November/December last year, interesting to see it potentially making a return soonMarch 18, 2023
You may recall that recommendations for websites to visit was an idea Microsoft was toying with in past preview builds from November 2022 onwards, but the idea was subsequently abandoned in build 25272, which landed in January 2023.
As PhantomOfEarth pointed out on Twitter (opens in new tab), though, there’s evidence that recommended websites are making a return in test builds of Windows 11.
The feature is hidden – and was only unearthed using ViVeTool, a Windows configuration utility – but it’s certainly interesting to see it could potentially be making a comeback. Especially given that a fair few Windows 11 users were happy to see the back of this concept when Microsoft seemingly ditched it at the start of the year.
Analysis: Drawing the line with recommendations
What folks are concerned about with recommended websites is that Microsoft will use this as a vehicle for pushing third-party sites (effectively advertising).
It’s one thing to recommend files or existing apps on your PC that you might want to conveniently and quickly open, but it’s entirely another to start suggesting ‘useful’ websites. (Sites that’ll no doubt be opened in Edge if past Microsoft form is anything to go by – the software giant won’t likely pass up an opportunity to promote its browser).
What’s also noteworthy here is that this ties up with another hidden piece of the puzzle that was discovered in the latest preview version of Windows 11. Namely the ‘Recommended’ part of the Start menu panel being renamed as the ‘For you’ section, which as we mulled previously seems to suggest that further personalization of this element of the interface might be incoming – possibly including recommended website content? Maybe, just maybe…
Yes, we are treading deeper into speculative territory here, but with AI increasingly being pushed by Microsoft, it’s not difficult to believe that suggestions and recommendations are going to be in evidence across Windows 11 before too long.
The worrying bit is exactly where the line will be drawn regarding helping users and helping advertisers, certainly in the case of recommended websites. Fingers crossed that if recommended sites are again inbound, or about to be tested, that Microsoft can strike a well-considered balance.