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Microsoft warns: Don't be 'scroogled' by Google

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is trying to skewer Google as a lousy holiday shopping guide in its latest attempt to divert more traffic to its Bing search engine.

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

In its new ads, Microsoft Corp. contends the new approach betrays Google's longstanding 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 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 technology companies.

Google's search engine is dominant on the Internet. Bing runs a distant second. Microsoft's Office and Windows software remains 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 tablets.

Google doesn't 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 will still include results from merchants who haven't paid for the privilege of being included.

But that's not the case for 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.

That means results from sites, including Web retailing giant Amazon.com, aren't displayed unless they pay. Amazon has only occasionally paid to have some of its wares listed in Google's shopping section.

Google defends the fee-based approach as a way to encourage merchants to provide more comprehensive and accurate information about their products.


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