If you like to shop online, you may like Perk, which is a new browser that lets you rack up reward points for surfing, searching, and shopping online.
Perk is based on the same technology underlying Google's popular Chrome browser.
Rewarding netizens for their online behavior isn't new. Microsoft, for example, had a program that paid people for searching with its Bing search engine . Google, too, had a program for paying users of its Chrome browser if they allowed the company to track their browsing habits.
Up to now, these programs have had one thing in common. They failed to gain any traction with the online community.
That bit of history hasn't been lost by the folks at Perk.
Online rewards programs typically use a portal site, said Adam Salamon, COO of Perk, which is based in Austin, Texas. The sites require you to register and return to it on a regular basis.
"They're website-based while we take advantage of being a browser," Salamon told PCWorld.
That allows Perk to emulate the best offline rewards programs, he said. For example, after signing up for a credit-card rewards program, people can rack up rewards points just by using their card.
Dealing with browser-switching inertia
"When we looked at the technologies on the Web that would allow us to perform any action on any website, the only technology that made sense was the web browser," Salamon explained.
He acknowledged that getting users to change their browser won't be easy. Typically, only "pain" will force a change. For example, slow performance will send a surfer searching for something faster.
"We're giving people the carrot instead of the stick," Salamon said. "Instead of switching because your browser's slow, we want to give you a browser that rewards you."
"We look at the browser market as a commoditized market where we could offer users something of value to adopt our browser," he added.
Regardless of how much value Perk may bring to its browser, there are many users who have invested a lot of time and effort bulking up their net navigators with customized features and extensions. For them, moving to a new browser would require more sweat equity than they are willing to put in.
Perk has a solution for those users, too. It has an extension at the Chrome Web Store called Perk Lite, which isn't as full-featured as the browser product but will allow you to rack up "Perk Points" after opening up a Perk account.
The Perk browser runs on both Windows and OS X PCs. When we tested the Windows version, we found it a bit rude. It usurped the role of default browser without asking permission and did the same for claiming real estate on the Windows task bar. iOS users are urged to take this into consideration.
Perk's rewards program is supported by more than 2000 merchants. They include Apple's iTunes, Starbucks, 1-800 Flowers, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, MLB.TV, Kohl's, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, drugstore.com and many others.
Perk Points can also be used to make charitable donations to organizations such as American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, and the ASPCA.