Microsoft Enters Toolbar Arena with MSN Toolbar’s Live Cashback “Gleam”

March 11, 2009 · 0 comments

It was announced way back in July of 2008 that Live Cashback would be getting a toolbar, but that didn’t make the official announcement last week on Live Search’s blog any less unsettling.
The MSN Toolbar (available only for IE at this time) will notify users of Live Cashback opportunities not only as they search on but on other search engines like Google and Yahoo. This obviously has the potential to explode the growth of Live Cashback, reaching across other search platforms outside of Microsoft’s own
This makes the toolbar debate awfully interesting.
Toolbar opponents (myself included) feel that they compromise security by allowing some level of oversight of your personal web browsing habits. In addition, they violate the sanctity of a webmaster’s own website by allowing “an intruder” to sit atop the site, luring away any potential sales the webmaster might have generated by his hard work in marketing, researching deals, providing useful product information, and any other activities required in making a sale… just because the toolbar lights up a “gleam” to intercept the commission.
Consumers may find a toolbar helpful if a) they only use one cashback program so they’re indifferent about perhaps missing out on a higher cashback rate elsewhere, or b) they can’t remember to start shopping on their rewards program’s own website… and they’re willing to make the privacy tradeoff in return for having an electronic mommy following them around to make sure they don’t forget.
Do consumers care that toolbars “steal away” potential sales commission from hardworking, everyday folks trying to earn a couple extra bucks by providing ads on their websites? I don’t know. It bothers me, but I’m not the average consumer.
The big outcry in the affiliate community last month against FatWallet’s toolbar was generally focused on the fact that one particular affiliate network ( that had previously been anti-toolbar had apparently reversed their policy without warning, leaving their affiliates and possibly their merchants themselves ignorant of the change. This case is a little different because, unless Live Cashback has changed its model since its days as Jellyfish’s cashback engine, Microsoft is directly contracting with merchants.
Do Live Cashback’s merchants know that they are now participating in a cashback toolbar? Are they okay with that? That’s what I’m wondering. Maybe they are — because now they don’t have to pay for sponsored listings on Google and Yahoo; they can just do CPA on Live Cashback and grab free traffic from Google and Yahoo via the MSN toolbar.
Microsoft, you know I love Jell — I mean, Live Cashback. But toolbars suck. Great way to conquer the internet while stepping on all the little guys. That’s so unlike you, too, isn’t it? Hey, where’s, by the way? Oh, you bought it up and killed it…that’s right. Huh.
Avoid the toolbars, people…if not for the privacy concerns, than on moral principle. Stealing’s wrong, even when the big boys do it.

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