Michael Arrington -- founder of TechCrunch (which made him notorious), CrunchFund (which made him rich and notorious), CrunchPad (which died in flames), and a long-standing Internet presence and opponent of paid blogs -- received an interesting email, which he posted yesterday on Uncrunched. The mailer claimed to be willing to pay Arrington to write a blog endorsing Microsoft's embattled Internet Explorer browser using #IEbloggers as a tag. As Arrington exclaimed, "This is just layers of stupid!"
If the email came from someone posing as a Microsoft marketeer in an attempt to discredit Microsoft... well, it certainly succeeded. (Later, Microsoft claimed a social-strategy vendor was acting without authorization from Microsoft, which had "suspended" the program.)
Here's what the reported message said, in full:
I work as a social strategist on behalf of Microsoft, and I wanted to invite you to collaborate on a sponsored post opportunity for Internet Explorer.
We love your aesthetic and blogging system, and think you'd be the perfect partner to spread the word on the new Internet Explorer browsing experience!
The new Internet Explorer is a brand new experience with many different features. This reworked Internet Explorer lets you search smarter and do more with its cool new features, such as multitasking, pinnable sites, and full-screen browsing.
In this program, we are looking to spread the word about the new Internet Explorer web experience in a cool, visual way, which is where you come in. Internet Explorer has teamed up with many partners in gaming, entertainment, and more, and we'd love to see you talk your opinions on these collaborations.
If you accept our invitation to work on this program, we would like for you to write a blog post by July 10th, in addition to sharing links to the new Internet Explorer across your social channels.
Compensation for this post is available, and there will also be ample opportunities for fun prizes and reward throughout the duration of the program.
To learn all about the details of this program, please visit this page (http://unbouncepages.com/7975010c-edb3-11e3-b3e0-12314000cce6/).
I look forward to working together.
Frankly, I'm surprised Harrington wasn't drawn in by the ample opportunities for fun prizes, but what the heck.
Worth noting: Chrome has had multitasking for a long time, IE9 had pinnable sites with Windows 7, and full-screen Metro mode IE debuted with the first beta of Windows 8, in February 2012. But let's not split hairs.
The referenced page, entitled "rethink what the Web can be," invites people to join the RenthinkIE Blogger Network by sending information to email@example.com. "With this information, we can then create a contract for you to read over and sign, followed by program access where you will see cool social content, the complete blog post prompt, and all required blog assets." In order to be compensated, you must "Share your post or related photos with our hashtag (#IEbloggers) on 2 to 3 social networks (Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter)."
Want to see who's been tweeting with #IEblogger? Use the Twitter search function.
Chances are good we'll never know if this was a legitimate screw-up or a very well-placed troll.
Expect denials from Redmond momentarily.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson contacted me with the following clarification: "This action by a vendor is not representative of the way Microsoft works with bloggers or other members of the media. The program has been suspended."
This story, "Microsoft allegedly paying bloggers to promote IE," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.