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Is Microsoft trying to buy users?

In an attempt to get more users, Microsoft has added SearchPerks to its Live Search service.

But, unless you have Internet Explorer 6.0, you aren’t even able to access the SearchPerks registration form. Yep. In order to test out SearchPerks you need to have IE 6 or higher. That’s a deal breaker right there.

With only a 9% market share compared with Google’s 60%, Microsoft refuses to give up on the search market. And you have to admire that fact – despite the failed Yahoo acquisition (which Google sidled up and snagged), it’s full steam ahead! Microsoft will not quit – but it will pay you to use Live Search.

So what is SearchPerks? Registered users agree to download a usage tracking program and then earn one ticket per every Live Search query (up to 25 tickets per day) until the program ends in April. Users can then redeem their tickets for prizes or donate the rewards to charity.

As interesting as it sounds, the SearchPerks registration page has a bit of a late-night infomercial feel to it. Things like “the sooner you sign up, the more opportunity you have to earn tickets!” are reminiscent of the “act now to receive your second Magic Bullet completely free!” But then again, perks persuade people to buy (or in this case, be bought).

Why hasn’t Live taken off? Is it because Google is so well known as a reliable search engine that newcomers barely have time to make it out of the starting gate? Cuil didn’t get too far, either – and it had pictures included in the results lists. But maybe that’s it – we don’t want the extras, just give us our search results so we can continue on with our task at hand. We don’t have time to register and redeem prizes! I found the added prize bonus to be an incredible turnoff. I want results, not prizes. If I were aiming for the latter I’d open a box of Cracker Jack.

By offering up SearchPerks to attract users, has Microsoft inadvertently proved Google’s strength? The search engine should speak for itself, no gimmicks necessary.

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