Microsoft has thrown its challenger to Google's Adsense open to public testing while trying to rally partners.
The company's pubCenter has been released to US beta testers following long-running private tests.
Senior product marketing manager Kevin McCabe called the beta a "great opportunity" for web site owners to shape an "alternative contextual advertising product to serve their needs."
The appeal comes as Microsoft lags Google in online ads partnerships and revenue and in the midst of what a year ago was considered the unthinkable: a slow-down in spending on online ads.
"Some of the features users like so far include the ability to control and customize their ads, to monitor performance of their ads, and to engage with other beta users in discussions about the future of this product," McCabe blogged.
While Google-crushing expectations are high, McCabe warned of uneven performance and functionality given this is a beta. "By the time we launch, we plan to offer an excellent, compelling alternative in this competitive field," McCabe said.
The beta launch follows the creation in February of a forum to advise on the creation of PubCener. Members of the Publisher Leadership Council include The New York Times company, Time, Viacom, and Barry Diller's Ask.com-owning IAC.
Microsoft said key PubCenter features were still on the drawing board, including enhanced targeting, measurement, and reporting functionality. ®