Microsoft starts pushing Windows 11 widget notifications on the taskbar

In the latest example of Windows 11 features arriving whenever Microsoft decides, the company is turning on live notifications for widgets starting this week.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is rolling out notifications for its Weather, Finance, Sports and Breaking News alert widgets in Windows 11 starting this week. Windows 11 users will see these as live animations to their widgets on the taskbar. (Thanks to The Verge for the heads up.)

Microsoft disclosed its plan to turn on this feature in a short note in the documentation for Windows 11 release health, which was posted at 11 p.m. on August 16. For those Windows 11 users who have widgets turned on, "Your taskbar should show weather most of the time, but when something important happens related to one of your other widgets you may see an announcement from that widget on your taskbar," the documentation explains.

While users can turn off widgets in Windows 11, they don't seem to be able to shut off the live notifications. I've asked Microsoft if there is a way to turn widget notifications off manually, but no word back so far. As The Verge noted, constantly updating widgets like stock tickers can be distracting on the taskbar.

Update (August 23): A spokesperson told me that "Microsoft has gone ahead and updated its release notes to include: 'At this time Widget notifications cannot be turned off. Microsoft is constantly listening and learning and welcomes customer feedback that helps shape Windows.'"

Microsoft is rolling out the notifications via an update to the Windows Web Experience Pack. This pack is one of a handful of different ways that Microsoft officials said they will use to deliver updated features to Windows 11. Earlier this year, company officials said they planned to make occasional Windows 11 feature updates whenever they decided to do so, despite a commitment in 2021 to provide a single Feature Update release to Windows 11 each year.

Microsoft may be moving to a new servicing model with Windows 11 sometime after it releases Windows 11 22H2 this fall, according to a report earlier this year. If Windows Central's information is correct, Microsoft may be planning to release bigger new Windows releases every three years, starting in 2024, with as many as four groups of smaller feature updates, known as "Moments," every year between the major releases.

Today's kick-off of widget notifications shows that Microsoft is moving ahead with its plan to deliver feature updates on a less predictable and more rapid schedule than some users -- especially business ones -- may want. But Microsoft officials seem to think that more feature updates are better than fewer, planned ones, and seem to be taking Windows in that direction.

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