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Microsoft attacks Google shop guide

Microsoft is trying to brand the American section of Google as a lousy Christmas shopping guide in its latest attempt to divert more traffic to its Bing search engine.

The attack started on Wednesday with a US marketing campaign focused on a recent change in the way Google operates the part of its search engine devoted to shopping results in the States. The revisions require merchants to pay Google to have their products listed in the shopping section.

In its ads, Microsoft claims the new approach betrays Google's long-standing commitment to provide the most trustworthy results on the web, even if it means foregoing revenue. To punctuate its point, Microsoft is warning consumers that they risk getting "scroogled" if they rely on Google's shopping search service.

The message will be highlighted in TV commercials scheduled to run on NBC and CNN and newspaper ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The blitz also will appear on billboards and online, anchored by a new website, Scroogled.com.

The barbs are likely to inject more antagonism into an already bitter rivalry between two of the world's best-known and most powerful technology companies.

Google's search engine is dominant, while Bing runs a distant second. Microsoft's Office and Windows software remain an integral part of personal computers, but Google has been reducing the importance of those programs and PCs with the success of web-based services and its Android operating system for smartphones and tablet computers.

Google does not require websites to pay to be listed in its main database, the index that provides results for requests entered into its all-purpose search box. A query made there for a particular product, such as a computer, will still include results from merchants who have not paid for the privilege of being included.

But that does not apply to someone who clicks on a tab to enter Google's shopping-only section, which is designed to compare prices and offer other insights such as identifying sites that offer free shipping. Searches there are confined to paying merchants.

Google defends the fee-based approach as a way to encourage merchants to provide more comprehensive and accurate information about what they're selling.

"I think you just get a well organised set of product information, ways to buy it, and really have a great experience there," CEO Larry Page said during a conference call with analysts last month.

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