Linda Buquet at the 5 Star Affiliate Programs Blog notices a part of the Microsoft Financial Analyst Day presentations which reveals that the MSN browser toolbar about to be installed on all Hewlett-Packard consumer PCs will try to entice Google searchers over to Microsoft’s own Live Search cashback deals. From Satya Nadella’s portion of Steve Ballmer’s presentation:
So the last thing I wanted to show you is one of the challenges, of course, we have, given our share position, is how do we really get more people to know about Live Search and get the taste for some of the value, like, in particular, the cashback value? So the place where we are innovating is in the toolbar. We have recently done a distribution deal for our toolbar with Hewlett-Packard. So this is the toolbar that Hewlett-Packard will carry with some customizations of their own. It’s the MSN toolbar.
And so let’s say I’m on Google and I type in Xbox. I can go ahead and search for Xbox, and automatically the toolbar detects that you’re searching for Xbox on Google and a Gleam view that there is a cashback on Live Search. And so I can go ahead and at this point click on that Gleam and it’ll take you to Live Search, or it’s supposed to take you to Live Search. Oh, it is on Live Search. See, I didn’t even notice the transfer. So it’s so seamless that now you’re on Live Search. You can get the cashback for a particular Xbox that you want to buy. So that’s just an experiment on how we get the word out, get more users trying Live Search, and getting the value of things like Live Search cashback.
Buquet’s beef is that affiliate marketers who are advertising on Google and always trying to get their sites to rank higher in the search results are going to be cut out of their commissions if searchers buy via Live Search cashback. My concern is that this seems like the most annoying sort of crapware bloat with privacy concerns to boot.
Admittedly, a “gleam” (which is a lit up marker on the toolbar) is probably the least offensive way to do this (compared to pop-ups, say), but it is yet one more piece of dancing baloney that slows down the browser. As for Microsoft getting a complete copy of your Google searching history (and what else?), that ought to be grist for the privacy advocates’ mills. Yet another thing to uninstall if you buy an HP machine, I guess, and to be wary of installing otherwise.