Microsoft Cuts Loose Bing Bait-And-Switch Scammers

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has refused to do future business with a company responsible for changing users' default web browser search without permission. The firm appears to have been one of the most prolific advertisers on Facebook.

The company in question runs a website called, which includes a tool allowing users to simulate dressing a virtual baby. To use the tool, users had to install a plug-in for their browser.

Unless users visited a link to a set of terms and conditions and read through the fine print, they wouldn't have been aware that the installation process also switched their default search tool to Microsoft's Bing search engine. As a result, any search term entered into the search box of Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome would have led users directly to Bing.

Affiliate Scheme The Inspiration

So why would -- or any web site, for that matter -- want to change the default search engine on web browsers?

It all has to do with affiliate marketing and payouts. While wouldn't get money from the switch of search tool (even though that benefits Microsoft), it would get a proportion of the revenue Microsoft gets from displaying and selling advertisements alongside Bing search results.

Microsoft recently issued a statement denouncing the bait-and-switch scheme:

"Distribution deals and affiliate programs are an important part of how all search engines introduce their product to customers. That said, we have been made aware of some practices from a specific publisher that are not compliant with the guidelines, best practices and principles put in place by Bing. As a result, the relationship with this publisher will be terminated." (Source:

Facebook: a Prime Marketing Tool?

The issue has also led to some debate about Facebook's involvement. One web analysis firm reported that between July and September last year, advertisements were seen 1.7 million times across Facebook and MySpace combined, making it the third most prominent advertiser on the two social networking sites.

However, a Facebook spokesman has denied the company advertises on Facebook, and says its advertisements would be blocked by Facebook policies. It's not clear why there's such a disparity, though it may be that is not currently advertising on Facebook, and that the social networking site is thus technically correct in what it said. (Source:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet