Microsoft may have discontinued Bing Cashback, but a similar service, now based on credits, has gone live.
Unfortunately, the Bing Credits preview that Microsoft announced on Wednesday also requires users to download a toolbar, which will monitor the user’s credits and provide links to redeem them. But the toolbar will also monitor a user’s interaction with search engines and the number of ads they click through.
Microsoft killed its Bing Cashback program this past June, claiming that it had never amassed the number of users that Microsoft hoped it would. In a blog post, Danielle Tiedt, the general manager of Bing said she the company would “continue to explore new approaches to search and interesting ways to engage users and increase awareness of Bing features.”
Microsoft has characterized the Bing Credits offer as a preview, which will expire on Sept. 30, 2011. Accumulated credits must be used by Dec. 31 of next year, Microsoft said. The offer is only open to U.S. residents.
The Bing toolbar, as might be expected, appears to contain a Bing search bar, plus buttons to link to popular items such as stocks, Hotmail, and other links. A number indicates the available Bing Credits.
What does the Bing Toolbar actually do? “In order to reward you for your participation in the Bing Rewards Preview, you need to download the Bing Bar which contains the Reward Counter,” a FAQ states. “The Reward Counter collects information about your interaction with Bing and different search engines including the number of web searches you do each day, the types of searches you complete (such as for news or images), and the number of search ads you click on. The information collected includes your system configuration and IP address, and we may collect and store a non-identifiable form of your searches in connection with your Rewards account to assist in the prevention of fraud. This information is collected and stored in connection with your Windows Live ID for up to 15 months. Bing Rewards Preview may use the data collected through the Reward Counter, your redemption center activity, and information collected and associated with your Windows Live ID to customize your Bing Rewards Preview experience.”
Microsoft has also posted what the company said will be a snippet of the full rewards catalog, which includes movie tickets, gift cards, Xbox 360 games, charitable donations, and other rewards. Shipping is free.
At this point, a $5 Amazon gift card is worth 541 credits – but there’s no indication as to how many points users will be able to earn at a time, and Microsoft has also indicated that the number of credits per prize may change at any time.
Users will receive 250 credits just for joining, Microsoft said, with some prizes redeemable for less than that.
What do users need to do to earn credits? “Offers may include searching on Bing, setting your homepage to Bing or trying out new features of Bing,” according to Microsoft. “Once you have enough credits to redeem for a reward, access the Redemption Center to select from a wide variety of rewards.”
New offers will appear in the toolbar, Microsoft said.