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Live Search Perks
So, the brains trust at Microsoft has decided that using the company's giant hoard of cash to pay people to use its Live Search search engine is one of the strategies they will be using to compete with Google's dominant market share. At first, it seems like an unseemly tactic, and then when you consider the millions of dollars spent on advertising you figure, why not? After all, I'd rather Microsoft give me five bucks to get me to try their search engine instead of giving some ad agency a few million dollars to run commercials during How I Met Your Mother to try and get me to use their search engine.
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SearchPerks is a different program from the previously launched CashBack program. The goal for both programs are the same: encourage people who might otherwise not have a reason to try Live Search to give it a whirl and then hope that it is good enough to get them to come back for free. SearchPerks, though, has an added purpose: to collect data on the habits of search engine users and use that data to improve Live Search.
To do that, SearchPerks requires a few more things than CashBack does. For starters, you have to use Internet Explorer to participate in SearchPerks, no Firefox, Opera, or Chrome users are allowed. There is some speculation that this is to reward IE users and an incentive to get Firefox users back into the fold, but Microsoft is savvy enough to know that when it comes to search engine users, the ones using Google AND Firefox or Chrome, are the ones who are least likely to come back, at least for now. By the way, you can only install the Perk Counter on one computer, so forget loading it up all over your house or office.
In addition to using IE, SearchPerks also requires the user to download and install a toolbar called the Perk Counter which requires a Window Live account to get and use. The SearchPerks website states innocently that the Perk Counter is used to count your qualifying Live Search searches and "some online activity." That is a loophole big enough to drive a supertanker through. Dig a little deeper into the user agreement and it turns out that the Perk Counter not only counts your searches, but it also reports your IP address, your operating system, when you click on ads, whether at Live Search or somewhere else, searches you do on other search engines, and it will also detect "various applications or software."
Yea! Go privacy! Considering Google isn't the poster child on this front either, maybe most users will just get over it.
So, what do you get for letting Microsoft look over your shoulder at the way you handle searches? You get prizes of course. But, not now. You get your prizes when the program ends. That is April 15, 2009, so you are going to be waiting a while.
What kind of prizes? You can get frequent flyer miles, some books, a mouse, ringtones or music downloads, a couple of Microsoft games, and oh, yeah, T-Shirts. Now, I know what you are thinking. Oh my gosh, T-Shirts? I love T-Shirts, and normally they are so expensive I can't buy them myself, it is so totally worth it to participate in a program like this for 15 months to get a T-Shirt! But, before you let all of the potential free T-shirts go to your head, the prizes can change between now and then.
Now, you are wondering just what do you have to do to get your free T-Shirt. Well, each time you do a search you get a ticket. The Perks Counter keeps track of your tickets and after the program is over next April, you can take all of your tickets over to the prize area where you can pick between a T-shirt, or a tiny plastic comb. I can't help but wonder if it is Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates whose favorite restaurant is Chuck E Cheese.
There is a limit of 25 searches per day. A T-Shirt costs 1100 tickets, so you'll need to search a while before you start picking colors. But, you get 500 tickets for signing up, so you only have 600 tickets to go. 600 divided by 25 searches per day equals…maybe they'll give away a calculator too.
Success or Fail?
I can hardly believe that too many people will go out of their way to do searches at Live Search for prizes like this, especially when you have to wait over a year to get any prizes. But, I don't think that Microsoft cares. All they really want is for you to download the toolbar and then forget all about it. Meanwhile, it will sit there collecting data that they can use to make a better search engine. If you do happen to remember and change your searching habits, then double bonus. So, for Microsoft, this will likely be a success.
As a user, unless the prizes get way better, you are probably wasting your time unless you already like using Live Search. If not, you'll download the Perk Counter and then make a few token searches before forgetting all about it. So, for the User, fail!
Microsoft Live Search Searchperks
Microsoft has spent big money improving its search engine and company executives regularly talk up the company's search efforts. Everything you did (and something you didn't) want to know about Live Search