Microsoft is to offer users ad-funded cash rebates when they find and buy products through its search service Live Search, as part of the software giant's latest attempt to compete with Google.
'Live Search cashback' includes more than 10m product offers from 700 companies, including key partners Barnes and Noble, eBay, Sears, Foot Locker and WPP.
Customers sign up for a Live Search cashback account at the time of their first purchase and accrue ad-funded rebates in their account each time they buy a product through the service.
The service, which is available only to users in the US at present, is built on technology and partnerships acquired through Microsoft's October 2007 acquisition of comparison shopping site Jellyfish.
Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, announced the initiative at Microsoft's annual advertising customer event Advance08.
Gates said: "We believe search can offer much more value to consumers and advertisers than it does today, and we see Live Search cashback as an important opportunity to deliver additional value.
"Our goal is to make Live Search the most rewarding commercial search destination on the web
"Live Search cashback will help advertisers drive more online sales while giving consumers a new way to stretch their dollars."
Participating advertisers will pay Microsoft a cost-per-action (CPA) fee each time a customer completes a sale through Live Search cashback.
The fee is a percentage of the retail price and when that transaction is complete, Microsoft returns that fee to the consumer in the form of a cash rebate.
Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, said: "Our business is to connect consumers with brands in the most effective and efficient ways. Microsoft's Live Search cashback creates a real incentive for consumers to connect with our clients.
"We believe this is a major development in the evolution of search marketing and look forward to participating and measuring the results."
Gates also announced that Microsoft has launched a new Live Search travel site called Live Search Farecast, which helps searchers find the best travel deals on the internet.
Live Search Farecast includes technology acquired through Microsoft's acquisition of travel site Farecast last month. The site helps users find the lowest airfares by predicting when to buy.
Microsoft said it is exploring the possibility of also incorporating an ad-funded rebate option for travel services in the future.
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