Microsoft's new plan to save Edge: reward points

Will award redeemable points for 'active' hours in Windows 10's default browser

Microsoft today made a play to boost usage of Edge with an awards program that gives users points for browsing with the Windows 10 application.

"Earn points for every hour of active browsing ... up to 30 hours a month," Microsoft announced on a promotional page.

To qualify for points in the new program -- formerly Bing Rewards, rebranded as Microsoft Rewards -- Edge users must have the Bing search engine as the browser's default. Microsoft defined "active browsing" as meeting two conditions: Edge had to be the highlighted icon in the taskbar -- meaning it was the only app in focus on the desktop -- and the user had to be "engaged with the browser" via clicking, mouse movements or watching full-screen video.

Microsoft did not say how many points will be awarded for each hour of Edge usage.

Users must also have Windows 10's diagnostic and telemetry technology enabled to be awarded browsing points. Enterprises and other large organizations may set that technology to its least intrusive level -- dubbed "Security" -- on Windows 10 PCs. Those systems won't be able to track Edge usage: No tracking, no Edge rewards.

By giving points for running Edge, Microsoft signaled that it realizes the browser needs help, and that it hopes gift cards and discounts on company products would be enough to entice users to either stick with Edge or return to it after running a rival.

Edge usage -- the browser only runs in Windows 10 -- has eroded since its mid-2015 debut. According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Edge ran on 24% of all Windows 10 PCs in July, down from 27% in June and 29% in May.

Growing Edge's share is more than a matter of prestige or bragging rights; it puts dollars in Microsoft's pocket. The more users run Edge, the more search with Bing -- set as the default in the browser -- and the more that search Bing, the more Microsoft reaps from sales of search ads. In fact, Microsoft has long banked on Bing serving as a cornerstone of Microsoft's monetization plans for Windows 10.

Microsoft said that the Edge awards -- and the overarching Microsoft Rewards program -- would launch "soon," and be limited to the U.S.

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