After failing to acquire Yahoo, and likely not to get Facebook either, Microsoft has decided to run with a search model that saw the likes of iWon.com dominate Google for all these years–incentivized search.
Oh wait, we got that last part wrong. iWon probably has less market share than RedZee at this point, and pretty much proved that bribing people to use your search engine, doesn’t really work. You see, if the search engine is crap, no amount of bribing will help.
But there’s more!
Microsoft’s "Live Search Cashback"….OK, time out. When will Microsoft learn that Live Search "Anything" is a one-way ticket to branding boredom?
OK, back to the announcement…Live Search Cashback is, by Microsoft’s own trumpeting, "The Search That Pays You Back!" (I’m sure they’re already trademarking that one). Here’s the lowdown:
You will be able to earn cashback savings based on a percentage of the product price. Your savings will be paid to you via your choice of a deposit to your PayPal account, direct deposit to your bank account, or a check in the mail….Different products may have different cashback percentage rates, so the rate for other products you buy may be higher or lower than the rate displayed on the Live Search cashback site for the product you initially searched for.
The cashback only applies to a limited number of products (displaying this symbol ), only open to US residents, and you must use a Windows Live ID.
So, the big question is, will it work? Will Microsoft be able to entice users into making their online purchases with Microsoft? Well, I like the concept, just not the ambition. Let me explain.
You see, Microsoft acquired JellyFish–which is basically what it’s re-branding here–and the concept of earning a little cashback, when shopping, is a novel one. When I first learned of the acquisition, I blogged that I hoped they didn’t mess with it too much. Well they did. They changed the cool name to one that is instantly forgettable, and they insisted you create a Windows Live ID account.
Some acquisitions make sense to re-brand, but even Google and Yahoo know that when you get your hands on a cool brand–YouTube, Flickr–it’s better to just let it stand on its own. JellyFish could have been Microsoft’s "cool" niche subsidiary. Instead, the launch makes the company look:
a) desperate–hey look we’ve started an affiliate program! We’re going to add a 2nd tier payout in the fall!
b) clueless–I told them when I visited, and I will keep on telling them: Live Search is a sucky brand.
c) without a strategy–Yahoo’s our future; no it isn’t; Facebook is our future; no wait, Yahoo is the future.
The official announcement comes later today. Maybe that will shine a light on what Microsoft’s goals are here. Maybe this is just a fun little experiment for the company, and nothing more. But with both the WSJ and TechCrunch–who’ve likely been briefed–implying this new offering is designed to "make gains on Google," I suspect my opinion to not change with the official announcement.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me I’m wrong–you love this idea. Tell me I’m right–this idea sucks. Tell me something!!!