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To some, this may read like an article from the parody site The Onion — but it’s not. Microsoft is preparing to unveil a new initiative for its Live Search product on Wednesday, one that will pay users to use the site, according to The Seattle Post Intelligencer.

More specifically the program, known as “Live Search cashback” (which is actually already live) will pay consumers who find and buy a product via Live Search a certain percentage of the purchase price back. Microsoft has already signed up partners including Barnes & Noble, Sears, Home Depot, J&R Electronics and Office Depot among others.

This new approach stems from Microsoft’s acquisition of comparative shopping engine Jellyfish last year.

Apparently, Microsoft thinks the idea that the search engine with the best results will come out on top (Google), can be replaced by the timeless adage: Money talks. It’s pretty comical, but it makes sense. If I were doing a search for a product I was going to buy, I would rather do it at a site that will give me a discount rather than one that wouldn’t. There’s a caveat there however; I still would want the best results.

The question is if this will have any meaningful effect on Microsoft’s current 3rd-place search market share in the search business. The answer? Probably not. Microsoft should worry about improving its algorithms or coming up with a completely new way of doing search — not paying users to use an inferior product.

Buying Yahoo’s Search business would be a much more effective way for Microsoft to use its boatloads of money to get ahead in the game.

The real question: If Microsoft buys Yahoo Search via Live Search cashback, will it get a discount?

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