Microsoft recently has bragged about how their search traffic and market share is going up, claiming as much as a 3% share gain in a month. Impressive gains for a dog of a product? No, just a complete marketing scam. A bunch of new search traffic is garbage.
Many of the new searches are coming from casual games at Microsoft Live Search Club like Chicktionary. Go ahead, try a game, it won't hurt. It's basically Scrabble; you make words out of 7 letters. The trick is every time you make a word or ask for a hint it does an MSN Search. Kaching, instant search traffic!
But it gets worse. Microsoft is paying people to play this game; you get 20 tickets per 5 minute game and tickets can be redeemed at a value of about $1 / 100 tickets. So they're paying for search. And people are writing bots to play the game, inflating the search traffic even more. Possibly much more.
At least they aren't showing ads on these garbage game search results. So they aren't scamming their advertisers directly. Only indirectly, by artificially inflating their traffic numbers.
When I was at Google I was nervous when Microsoft started making a serious go at the search and ads business. Microsoft has a lot of smart engineers and resources and a powerful monopoly that they have a history of illegally exploiting. As it turns out MSN search hasn't been much competition to Google, although the story isn't over yet. Those Facebook and Digg deals do matter. But it's just shameful that the best MS can do for market share is to pay robots to play cartoon chicken games.
See also Battelle, Search Engine Land, and GigaOM