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5/21/2008
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Microsoft Offers Cash To Use Its Search Engine

Microsoft plans to entice advertisers and users of its search engine with savings on online purchases on a site called Live Search cashback.

Microsoft unveiled plans Wednesday to entice advertisers and users of its search engine with cash-back savings on online purchases, launching a site called Live Search cashback.

The new site is ostensibly a product search site, but any of the products found by using Live Search cashback can be bought for a certain percentage off even the cheapest price that comes up from a variety of stores participating in the promotion. Advertisers, meanwhile, will only pay per purchase, not per click.

Microsoft has been looking for ways to increase its share of the Web search and advertising market dominated by Google. It recently backed out of a $40-billion-plus acquisition bid for Yahoo, though talks are reported to be underway to buy or partner with Yahoo's search and Web advertising businesses. Top Microsoft search and ad exec Satya Nadella is expected to lay out Live Search cashback and other Microsoft search plans later on Wednesday at Microsoft's annual advertiser conference.

Live Search cashback is based on Jellyfish Cash Back, a technology Microsoft bought last year. Another Jellyfish service, Smack Shopping, features sales of items that decrease in price over time until stock runs out. Past deals included 36.5% off an iPod Nano, for example.

On Live Search cashback, a Canon PowerShot A470 Digital Camera is available on the site from $109.50 to $147.86 from 22 different online stores, including large retailers, and Microsoft is offering cash back of anywhere from 2% to 11.5% off those prices, depending on the store. There are deals for a wide variety of products: one gives 10%, or $999, back from the purchase of a $9,999 2.15 carat diamond engagement ring.

To get cash refunds, users first have to sign up for the service, which requires a Microsoft Windows Live ID. Users will also be asked for address, e-mail, and phone number information, which appears mandatory in order to receive cash back. Only U.S. residents are currently eligible.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has rewarded people using its search engine. Last year, Microsoft rewarded users for playing search games with a site called Live Search Club. That initiative provided a temporary boost in Microsoft's search market share, but was later found to have been gamed by hackers looking to increase their awards.

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