Microsoft's attempt to unseat Google's AdWords
Google has struck a home run with Adwords and Adsense, so much so that Adsense is now a cornerstone of many a business plan. It is certainly a cornerstone of MY business plan, and you can view examples of Adsense advertising on this very page. You can learn more about Adsense on my web site building and promotion site.
In my opinion Adsense is the neatest thing since sliced bread, bar none. Google really gets the idea of serving all stakeholders in their equation, and with the Adwords and Adsense combination they are providing an excellent service to the Internet and the people who use it. The key to this is the excellence with which they are able to target the content of a web site, matching relavent advertising to the websites on which Adwords advertising appears.
For me it has provided a ray of "hope", that one could well support themselves through writing online. In the online world the content is "free" but you still have to pay, somehow, for your living, or you'll starve. So how? Can you afford the time to track down advertisers on your own? No. Would the typical advertiser want to make a $50 deal to put a few ad impressions on your web site? No. But with Adwords and Adsense Google is enabling average everyday people to set up a website and take advertising from around the world. On the flipside anybody with a few dollars and a dream can launch a worldwide advertising using Adwords.
Enter Microsoft, and their new program, AdCenter. ArsTechnica has a short news article about it which gives food for thought. In particular the lever Microsoft intends to pull is the vast database they've built of peoples browsing habits:
Microsoft has been tracking this information for years through its various sites, including MSN, Hotmail and others, keeping a vast database on tens of millions of individuals, each assigned a user ID Microsofties refer to as a GUID, or global user ID. Past internal Microsoft plans to use the GUID have been shelved due to fears privacy advocates would set about characterizing the technology as a dangerous and invasive use of personal information.
Where Google seemingly matches advertising purely based on the content of the web site, Microsoft has been tracking you for years and knows every website you've visited. They know your interests, your habits, and they think they know what you want. I don't know about you, but this doesn't give me any comfort. Plus, it just underlines why I have switched my computing life to a Macintosh and even with the Windows PC I use in my day-job I use Mozilla browsers.
Apparently the service isn't ready to be used by the public, and what we're looking at is an early announcement of "it'll be ready 'soon'". In any case what they're offering initially is purely a place for advertisers to submit advertising. Presumably Microsoft will scatter the advertising through their own websites, initially. And presumably Microsoft will eventually offer a service filling the same role AdSense does today.