Posted May 21, 2008 9:05 am by with 17 comments

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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 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!!! 😉

  • Andy-
    Is it any mystery why their CEO gets pelted with egg? Not as classic as the cream pie Mr. Bill Gates received but you think they would get the message! If you want to be the industry leaders you desperately want to be then it is time to innovate and excite. Fat chance.

    Our Monmouth’s last blog post..FBI 1 Corrupt NJ Mayor 18 to 24

  • I get this when going to

    “As part of our pledge to save you money on the products you buy, our Cash Back rewards service is currently offline to perform necessary service upgrades and enhancements. Jellyfish Account holders will receive an e-mail notification when our Cash Back service is up and running again. Thanks for your patience.”

    Seriously, Microsoft needs to get their act together. Jellyfish was an awesome service with an almost cult-like following. It was also great for merchants (I’ve used them as a merchant before and it was effortless, logistical issues aside). They’ve completely lost it if they are going to let die.

    Arthur Freydin’s last blog post..Isn’t it Time for Built-In USB Car Chargers?

  • “Is it any mystery why their CEO gets pelted with egg? ”


    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Google Search Quality Insights from Udi Manber

  • I was going to take a look but I’d already forgotten the brand name by the time I reached the end of the post…

    John’s last blog post..Swapping Stuff

  • Tim

    Smack shopping was the real coup de grace of Jellyfish the cash back program wasn’t that new or novel. While Jellyfish cashback was neat 2 years ago. I didn’t think the prices w/rebates were that competitive. Smack shopping was much more interesting from the perspective of getting a good deal.

  • Dean

    WOW! I can get a $109 camera for only $107 and all I have to do is use MSFT’s piece of garbage search engine? To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “who was the Marketing genius that came up with this one?” Seriously, you read about how brilliant the people in Redmond are, and they came up with this????? I mean this is High School Junior Achievment crap.

    Things sure must be getting desperate in Microsoftland.

    Way to go Monkey Boy!

  • Dean

    I just googled “canon powershot a470 digital camera” (the camera in Andy’s screenshot) and found a list for $105 😛

    Your serve Mr. Ballmer

  • @Dean – yeah, it’s kind of crummy that they have to mark-up the prices so they can afford the cashback. 😉

  • This is only a good idea if they can get the word out – and – Microsoft has the money to do that. Talk about cutting the Googlers head off – if they get the word out this could go really well for them.

    They don’t need a good search engine, in fact, they could have the worst search engine in the world (do they already ??) and this could still work wonders for them. I don’t think it would work for everyone but if you have money to throw at it you might get a nation of people typing everything they want to buy directly into in an attempt to save a few bucks. Xmas 08 may be a great Christmas for MSN.

    They could just be looking to get more people to click on their ads which would in turn get more money from advertisers. Nothing gets people to ignore organic results and pay attention to ads more than a huge savings icon. You’d have to change the name as it’s part of live search… I don’t know I like the idea…you’d think they’d use their busy homepage for a little promotion though.


  • Nevermind – it looks like the ads with the icon are only for live search – idea isn’t cutting the Googlers head off anymore.

  • I don’t have any more comments to add on any of MSN new “things”, they are creating their own downfall imo…

  • Waun Forall

    Finally a search engine so bad we’ll pay you to use it! Only Microsoft could consider this a positive and an advancement, like we’ve made a bug a feature!

    This from the supposed geniuses of Redmond, makes me wonder if the Titanic has hit a 2nd iceberg? First Vista, then Zune and now this. Is there no end to the useless crap they want to sell us, that is inferior to all the originals they try to copy?

    “livesearch” the google-lite wannabe, now with extra cashback, sounds like they are selling crap from Ronco.

  • I see the guys at google laughing their ears off. As long as Microsoft has one of the crappiest search engines in the world, they would have to pay me per search and not per sale.

  • Seems Mocrosoft start changing the strategy…It is now seems to be more creative and flexible.

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  • Sheesh … MSFT has the Crapper touch … every thing they touch seems to turn to, um, ‘substance’.

    When they acquired Jellyfish, all they needed to change was the logo, the locks on the executive toilets and the signatures on the bank accounts.

    Then pretend like that didn’t own it and advertise it like crazy.

    And they managed to shank that.

    Bill Canaday’s last blog post..Ad test

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