Desperation Sets In: Bill Gates Finally Launching His Plan To Bribe Users

from the search-fraud,-here-we-come dept

Way back in 2005, Bill Gates announced that one way that Microsoft could beat Google would be to pay users to use Microsoft's search engine. At the time, we noted all the problems with this approach. First off, it's been tried and failed many times in the past (even Google once had a program to pay users, though almost no one remembers it). Many such systems are also prone to gaming. Also, while we were just noting yesterday that money doesn't "ruin everything," it can change the way people view a service -- and not always in a positive manner.

Either way, Microsoft is finally moving forward with this plan, as Bill Gates is announcing a new program to give cash back to users who end up buying things following a Live.com search. It's not a pure "pay-for-search" offering, instead focusing on offering cash back after the fact for buyers. That's certainly better than a pure bribe 'em strategy, but it still seems like something of a desperation play. Basically, it's admitting that Microsoft hasn't been able to compete with Google in terms of overall user experience and now has to resort to paying users instead. In situations like this, implementation is everything, and while people will definitely use this to get certain discounts, it's not clear that it will really make a huge dent in Microsoft's efforts to lure users away from Google's overall search. In general, though, business models that pay people for doing something useful tend to make sense (it's paying them for their effort). Business models that simply pay people to attract their attention don't tend to work nearly as well (and are much less sustainable). In this case, it seems like Microsoft is doing the latter, rather than former, which may make it difficult to succeed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    BidMogul.com, May 21st, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Too late!

    We already pay our users.
    BidMogul.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Donald Jessop, May 21st, 2008 @ 9:17am

    Microsoft paying me to use Google?

    So, if I understand this correctly, I can use Google as much as I want, researching, evaluating and finally choosing a product, but when I want to buy the product I use Microoft and get money back? I don't see any compellig reason to use the Microsoft route, except for the actual purchase itself. Google will stll get my click throughs, but Microsoft will be paying for it. Other than Microsoft, does anyone really lose on this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    dave, May 21st, 2008 @ 9:32am

    Re: Microsoft paying me to use Google?

    They're hoping that eventually you'll get tired of going to get good results from google first and use their results which will be heavily biased toward their participating retailers.

    It's win-win! For Microsoft, anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), May 21st, 2008 @ 9:48am

    Coupons/On Sale

    Just like grocery stores have sales and coupons to get your business and take it away from competitors. No different here. Reward points for using a certain credit card...airline mileage rewards...store/manufacturer rebates...need I continue?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Technorganic, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:23am

    poor old Bill

    Let's see, microsoft wants a piece of the music industry, when they can't get the media player or the physical unit right. They want on every computer, and if you haven't tried a macbook pro, please do, you will never go back. They are already destroying the youth with the only thing they can do right, the X box platform.

    The problem here, is that Microsoft is to big. It's like the government, I don't trust them. Vista sucks, what a joke. How can you have all this money and not do anything right.

    Walk away Bill.
    Your a dork, you had your phone, but Google is the future as they actually care about what people want. Microsoft will never get that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:25am

    This is simply a stupid idea. The biggest problem is that Microsoft will only offer cash back when you buy from particular qualifying retailers. If you could get cash back from "any" internet transaction, it would be way to easy to game the system. Therefore MS will have to limit it to retailers it trusts who are willing to deal with MS.

    Accordingly, any value offered will be highly limited. And because there will be no real benefit to the average user, there will be no reason for the average user to switch to Microsoft's search.

    To put it simply: Failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Technorganic, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:27am

    poor old Bill

    Let's see, microsoft wants a piece of the music industry, when they can't get the media player or the physical unit right. They want on every computer, and if you haven't tried a macbook pro, please do, you will never go back. They are already destroying the youth with the only thing they can do right, the X box platform.

    The problem here, is that Microsoft is to big. It's like the government, I don't trust them. Vista sucks, what a joke. How can you have all this money and not do anything right.

    Walk away Bill.
    Your a dork, you had your fun, but Google is the future as they actually care about what people want. Microsoft will never get that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Technorganic, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:27am

    poor old Bill

    Let's see, microsoft wants a piece of the music industry, when they can't get the media player or the physical unit right. They want on every computer, and if you haven't tried a macbook pro, please do, you will never go back. They are already destroying the youth with the only thing they can do right, the X box platform.

    The problem here, is that Microsoft is to big. It's like the government, I don't trust them. Vista sucks, what a joke. How can you have all this money and not do anything right.

    Walk away Bill.
    Your a dork, you had your fun, but Google is the future as they actually care about what people want. Microsoft will never get that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Microsoft paying me to use Google?

    the site from where you buy will recognize you coming from live search thereby start placing higher value live as the referrer. if you are advertiser, you want to be locating at the tightest link between search and purchase which live will appear to have thanks to this. super smart move!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    some old guy, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:51am

    This is what little Billy had to say...

    OMFG, WTF?!?!?! Little Stevie still hasn't fucking killed google yet. I told him to do that 4 years ago! Well, damnit, looks like I'm gonna have to do it myself.

    Tell you what. Ya, you lusers out there. Come use "my" search engine, and I'LL FUCKING PAY YOU! Take THAT google!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    bobbknight, May 21st, 2008 @ 10:56am

    cooll

    Find it on Google and then buy it on live search.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Nate, May 21st, 2008 @ 11:04am

    What a joke...

    This has to be a joke. I mean, all it is doing is drumming attention to MS. I am almost certain the rewards will be pretty weak, and the selection of "approved" retailers will suck. The nice thing about buying stuff online is your ability to shop around and find the best possible price. In this situation, you will be stuck with whatever MS deems appropriate.

    This is just like a little kid trying to get more friends by buying them gifts. "I'll give you this Nintendo DS if you will be my friend". It is really sad...

    http://www.custompcmax.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    James, May 21st, 2008 @ 11:05am

    Re: Too late!

    STOP SPAMMING!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Chief Elf, May 21st, 2008 @ 11:14am

    Mindshare

    Basically, it's admitting that Microsoft hasn't been able to compete with Google in terms of overall user experience and now has to resort to paying users instead.

    Not necessarily. I haven't used a Microsoft search engine in years. If they've made searching at least as good as Google, then bribing me might get me to try them again. If it's as good as Google, but no better, I might as well use Microsoft. If it's better than Google, I'll switch to Microsoft. I don't expect anyone other than hackers to make a lot of money off of it, but it's something to grab a headline and get some bloggers to write about it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Rick, May 21st, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Spam?

    I would have been more impressed, and will be if anyone ever does, if instead they start letting users help eliminate spam pages that clutter the search engines to no end.

    Google will never stop supporting the spam sites with their engine as they are a large part of their adsense income.

    Microsoft could easily rate spam pages lower without effecting their bottom line as nobody uses MS ads to fill their spam sites - they use Adsense.

    If Microsoft took steps to boycott spam sites, their results would actually be better than Google's...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), May 21st, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    The Whole Product

    "Basically, it's admitting that Microsoft hasn't been able to compete with Google in terms of overall user experience and now has to resort to paying users instead."

    How is 'giving cash back' not a part of the overall user experience?

    This is competition, just the way we like it. May or may not work, but MSFT is offering something of value to the customer, and seeing if it resonates.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Paola V Medina, May 21st, 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Microsoft Vs. Google

    I changed my website from MSN to Google after realizing how bias MSN has been in regards to this presidential race. MSN, as well as Yahoo, has highly supported Obama by reporting only extremely positive articles about him. On the other hand, Hillary is the bitch in their articles. I just wanted to have objective information like the one Google offers.
    (PDS.) Bias broadcast TV stations I don't watch anymore: ABC and NBC; a bias TV program: the View.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    wow, May 21st, 2008 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Microsoft Vs. Google

    hey great! you turned a search engine discussion into a political one! Kudos *rolls eyes*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2008 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Microsoft Vs. Google

    "Hillary is the bitch in their articles"

    Not to get on the politcal thing too much... but Hillary is bytch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Dave, May 21st, 2008 @ 1:09pm

    Google Checkout?

    Isn't this pretty similar to what Google did to try to get people to use Google Checkout? If MS can be accused of anything, it's copycatting a Google idea that didn't seem to work out very well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, May 21st, 2008 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Coupons/On Sale

    And we've seen how successful brick-and-mortar sales tactics have been in the online world to date.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Interested Buyer, May 21st, 2008 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Too late!

    It would be nice if there were actual items on bidmogul.com I went there just now and there was nothing for sale on any catagory

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Eric the Grey, May 21st, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    I find it interesting.

    I did a test search (one DVD title only) and found what I was looking for at a fairly competitive price. Amazon had some used copies of this DVD series slightly lower, as did Google.

    It's interesting that they not only quote an incorrect price, one with the "cash back" computed into the total, but the store that had the best price was listed as a cash back member since 2006. Strange, since this program just rolled out.

    First off, you don't get the cash back taken off your purchase, but have to let it accrue until it exceeds $5.00 before you can claim it, which in my books makes the price quoted incorrect. You WILL have to pay the full price up front. I don't know of anybody who sees things that way. The money coming back is a little extra you don't really expect to see.


    EtG

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Almost, May 21st, 2008 @ 3:49pm

    Re: Microsoft paying me to use Google?

    Only if the person selling the product is also advertising on MSN.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Ben, May 21st, 2008 @ 6:46pm

    Bizrate used to do this

    Back in the late '90s, Bizrate used to offer a credits for certain retailers in its product searches. Once you accumulated $15 in credit, they issued you a rebate check. Unfortunately, they discontinued the program, leaving credits of less than $15 unredeemable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    MJM, May 22nd, 2008 @ 12:01am

    The End Of Empire

    The End is Near. We will, one day, look back at this month as the beginning of the end of Microsoft. Yes, it will never disappear completely, but they are now on a long slippery decline that over the next decade will result in a significant change in their influence in the industry and with consumers.

    Yes, the XBox business is finally profitable, but the business has less strategic value than was once imagined. The desktop applications business is strong, but we can all see that the required shift to a asp model (driven by Google and linux and open source) will decrease operating margins without a corresponding increase in volume. The OS business is a mess. The Search is game over.

    Yes there are some good things happening at MS, (their CRM products for instance) but they do not offer the opportunity to create dominant positions of the past and as such their influence is now on the wane.


    All empires eventually end. The reasons are not really complex. Inevitably size, complexity, territorial reach, and stratification, become insurmountable obstacles to their success.

    Such is the story unfolding before us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    bt garner, May 22nd, 2008 @ 2:26am

    Re: I find it interesting.

    Some stores have been around with this feature since 2006 -- like all technologies, Microsoft simply bought another company. In this case the company was Jellyfish.com (which
    has been operational since late 2006). They mostly left the JF alone, except for the shopping part which they have no re-introduced as their own.

    It's not a bad deal, but like all offerings you do need to be aware of what you are getting into. For buying something like a DVD, your cashback is going to be small, but if you can find a good deal on something along the lines of say, like a camcorder, the "cash back" can make the bottom line pricing better than most other online offerings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Wesley Parish, May 22nd, 2008 @ 2:33am

    Microsoft and Bribes

    Microsoft has known for quite a while that it can bribe me, and how I can be bribed - the source trees of various Microsoft products, such as Win95, NT 3.51, Office97, Visual [Programming Language] Express - well off the market by now or not being sold for an immediate financial return - released under the GPL version 3, so as to assure me that they have no malign "software patent" issues to throw at me for having the audacity to actually use those source trees. I live in hope of seeing flying pigs and purple cows, obviously! ;)

    As for their fluffing around with search - the key is adding value to (the use of) their products, not adding extra layers of icing - after a while the cake sinks ignominiously into the pavement. Unless they actually come up with an online "experience" that I like, I won't waste my time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    BidMogul.com, May 22nd, 2008 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: Too late!

    The lack of items is because we went live yesterday. Keep checking us out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2008 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Too late!

    What a business! You went live yesterday with no items and you "already pay your users."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2008 @ 5:56am

    Maybe I don't understand it but couldn't this get gamed pretty easily? I looked at some high dollar items (plasma TV's) that had cash back offers ranging from $40-100 from brick and mortar stores. Seems to me you could make the purchase, collect your cash back, return/cancel the order, rinse then repeat. Maybe they have safeguards in place but I doubt they have covered every contingency. I think MS will get gamed on this offer. Also, from a competitive perspective what prevents Google from doing the exact same thing? An offering like this provide a competitive advantage only if your competition can't effectively counter it. This is pretty easily imitated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Mike Peter Reed, May 23rd, 2008 @ 6:00am

    when "free" isn't good enough for your users

    Reward them for using your mediocre product! It's bound to shift a couple of Zunes if nothing else.

    If I were Microsoft and I wanted to get into advertising revenue, I'd forget the anomaly that is Google and forget trying to be a "me too" company. I'd start to read Seth's blog and read up on Jack Trout et al. Focus pinky! Focus!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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