In exchange for downloading the Bing Bar for Internet Explorer, signing in with a Windows Live ID and then performing various Bing-related actions (setting your homepage to Bing, trying out its new features, etc.), users earn credits redeemable for various rewards.
Those rewards include a Bing-branded Magic 8-Ball (500 credits), a Bing-themed USB Drive (1100 credits) and Amazon.com Gift Card (541 credits), and even games like "Project Gotham Racing 4" (2668 credits). The more altruistic can also designate their points for charitable donations.
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because Bing Rewards shares an "interact with Bing in exchange for prizes" vibe with Microsoft's Bing Cashback Program, which Microsoft canceled this summer after a two-year run.
Bing Cashback gave online shoppers cash in exchange for purchases made through Microsoft's merchant partners, but the program apparently didn't spark enough interest.
"In lots of ways, this was a great feature--we had over a thousand merchant partners delivering great offers to customers and seeing great ROI on their campaigns, and we were taking some of the advertising revenue and giving it back to customers," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Audience Business Group, wrote in a June 4 posting on the Bing Community blog. "But after a couple of years of trying, we did not see the broad adoption that we had hoped for."
Does Microsoft think that a Bing Rewards program will fare better?
"We've been pleased with the positive feedback we've heard from customers, and humbled to have seen some great momentum in our early months. We'll continue to explore new approaches to search and interesting ways to engage users and increase awareness of Bing features," Danielle Tiedt, Bing's general manager, wrote in a Sept. 22 posting on the Bing Community Blog. "Today marks another step forward in that journey, with the launch of Bing Rewards."
From Microsoft's point of view, at the very least, a program like this could lead to an uptick in the number of people downloading the Bing Bar and clicking around Bing itself. But would that necessarily translate into users sticking around for the long term?
Your guess is as good as mine. But trust Microsoft to stick this one out for a while.