Microsoft came out all guns blazing in the latest round of the tech wars, telling holiday shoppers to beware the evil of ‘Scroogle’ this holiday season, and switch to the more ‘honest’ Bing.

An advertisement by Microsoft read:

“In the beginning, Google preached, ‘Don’t be evil’ – but that changed on May 31, 2012. That’s when Google Shopping announced a new initiative. Simply put, all of their shopping results are now paid ads”.

It goes on to say “when you limit choices and rank them by payment, consumers get Scroogled.”

Screengrab from the Microsoft ad

“We want consumers to know, in contrast to the route that Google has pursued, we are staying true to the DNA of what a good search engine is really about,” said Mike Nichols, Bing’s chief marketing officer. “We will rank results on what’s relevant to you and not based on how much someone might pay us.”

But is Microsoft really being the good guy here? Or is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

The point of contention here is a change that Google made to 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.

This means that searches on Google’s shopping-only section, which is designed to compare prices and offer other insights such as identifying sites that offer free shipping, is confined to paying merchants. That means results from sites, including Web retailing giant, aren’t displayed unless they pay.

The financially driven system for determining the results in a major part of Google’s search engine breaks new ground for a company whose idealistic founders, Page and Sergey Brin, once railed against the perils of allowing money to influence which Web links to show.

But its not like what Microsoft is doing is so different, at least for the holiday season.

According to this report by CNN, Bing’s own search results also include results from companies that have paid to be listed.

But Bing has actually shut down its free sign-up option for vendors for the holiday season, and any new vendors interested in being listed are directed to, where they will have to pay to be included in search results. After the holiday season, Bing’s shopping-only section once again will accept free listings from new merchants.

Danny Sullivan, an Internet search expert told the Associated Press that like Google, Microsoft isn’t doing a good job disclosing the role that money plays in its shopping-only results. He thinks that issue could undermine the effectiveness of Bing’s anti-Google ads.

So what gives? Was it because Microsoft felt they had a marketing campaign which was too good to pass up?

Chris Matyszczyk of CNet writes, I am sure that when Microsoft’s advisers came up with the name “Scroogle” there were hoots of laughter and fists pumped toward the lampshades. There is the analogy to being “screwed” and the nod to Dickens’ creation, all bundled in one tiny package.

But will it end in the wrong party getting screwed?

With inputs from the Associated Press

Publish date: November 29, 2012 10:30 am| Modified date: November 29, 2012 10:30 am

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