Coupons used to be something you clipped from the back of weekly superstore catalogues. Now, thanks to sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, they are becoming a team sport - and Google is about to make a big splash in that particular pond.
Group buying is becoming big business. Groupon, which is the most popular player in this category, publishes deals arranged with retailers and service providers. The deals are often extreme - half off at your local restaurant, 60% off two nights at a ski resort, and so on. The deals are advertised, but don't go live until enough Groupon members pledge to pay. When a certain threshold is reached, the deal is activated.
Groupon recently turned down a $6bn buyout offer from Google, and the rumour mill says that it is now looking at a $15bn initial public offering in the next couple of years. This is a firm that's barely two years old. It's an amazing achievement. But Google is determined not to be outclassed here.
Enter Google Offers, a forthcoming service recently leaked to bloggers. It looks like a Groupon clone, and will likely have the Groupon folks hopping mad. Mashable has published a leaked fact sheet on Google Offers for all to see.
Google has a unique advantage here with its Google Checkout service. Presumably, members could pay using that system, which is a PayPal rival, although that won't be confirmed until the service launches. In the meantime, though, do we really want Google gaining even more information about us, including what we're buying and what deals we're interested in?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets