Google, Bing Fight Over Copying Search Results
Bing denies copying search results and states that it learns from customers.
The Search Engine scene that has been dormant for a while has suddenly became active. Yesterday, Danny Sullivan, Editor of Search Engineland, posted an exhaustive account of how Google undertook a sting operation to check if Microsoft Bing was copying its search results. Basically, Google created 100 synthetic queries for a one time experiment to find out the similarity of search results between Google and Bing. Microsoft’s Harry Shum, Corp. VP for Bing called Google’s experiment a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking.
A Cold war was always on between Google and Microsoft. Both companies along with the new kid on the block, Blekko, appeared at Big Think’s even Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box. Many feel it’s a well executed publicity stunt by both Google and Microsoft, but it’s easy to pass judgment without referring to the details.
Amit Singhal, Google fellow, clarified on Google’s official Blog how the search giant created a honeypot consisting of 100 synthetic queries that average users won’t search for. Those queries were then checked on Internet Explorer 8 using Bing Tool bar with Suggested Sites option. Microsoft certainly uses both IE8 and Bing toolbar to collect information on users’ searches. On testing those synthetic queries, Google engineers were surprised to see the same search results appear in Bing.
In short, Google found out that Bing replicated the search results for any random query used in Google’s search Engine. The similarity of results didn’t appear immediately when the experiment began, but only over a period of a week or so. This experiment was reportedly ended in December. Hence, Shum and several others are obviously questioning why Google waited for 30 days to publish the findings. Maybe Google was taking legal advise on this matter.
Mary Jo Foley, author of All about Microsoft at ZDNet blogs, reported the same and got a reply from Microsoft’s spokesperson: We do not copy Google’s results. That didn’t seem comprehensive enough and hence followed a blog post by Harry Shum at Bing Community Blog. Shum called Google’s experiment a creative tactic.
The duel between Google and Bing over copying of search results seems to have heated up. Google wants Microsoft to stop mimicking Google. In a way it’s good, so that the errors aren’t repeated. Back in December, Google announced to bury bad merchant sites that ill-treat the consumers just to increase ranking in the search engine. So basically, in the name of Search Ranking Algorithm tweaking, Google smartly carried out the experiment. May be I am wrong, but everything is so perfectly timed like an Alfred Hitchcock novel.
Singhal told Sullivan, “It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work. I don’t know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.”
At the Farsight 2011, Shum said, Google engineers helped us discover a new form of spam. I wished the Google engineers had shared that with us before they went to press. If you look at how each search engine ranks the results, Matt Cutts is referring to a few outlier examples. It’s not like we actually copied anything. We actually learn from our customers. Do you mean that Google owns the data?
Google seems to be deeply hurt with how close Bing appears. While Microsoft defends stating that users’ search behavior data has been used. This issue might soon be in court.