February 01, 2011

Google Claims Bing is Copying Search Results


Google is making some significant accusations where Microsoft’s Bing is concerned. According to this Cnet report, Google noticed some curious search results at Bing. The company then conducted a sting operation to further investigate the matter. The result: Google is accusing Microsoft of copying Google search results into its own search engine.

This report first emerged from Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, who has talked with both companies regarding the issue and event presented the evidence Google has collected. His report shows that a mechanism could be the Suggested Sites feature of Internet Explorer and the Bing Toolbar for browsers, both of which have the ability to gather data about what links people click when running searches.

Google first started looking into the situation when it noticed unusual activity on Bing. Google’s team corrects typographical errors in search terms. This team not only monitors its own performance, but also that of its rivals. Typos corrected by Google would lead to search results based on the correction. The team noticed that Bing would also lead to those search results without indicating they had corrected the typo.

To investigate further, the Google team needed to dig a little deeper and set up a “honeypot” to catch the operation in action. Google created a one-time code that would enable it to manually rank a page for a certain term. Those results were then wired for particular and highly obscure search terms, such as “hiybbprqag” and "ndoswiftjobinproduction."

With the hand coding in place, typing those search terms would produce recognizable Web pages in Google results that wouldn’t show in search results otherwise.

Google next had its employees type in those search terms from home using Internet Explorer with both Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar enabled, and clicking the top results. Before this experiment was launched, neither search site returned the hand-coded results. Two weeks later, however, Bing showed the Google results that had been hand-coded.

In a comment to ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft said, "We do not copy Google's results." Otherwise, the software giant isn’t talking.

For its part, Google isn’t happy.

"I've got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book," Sullivan quoted Google Fellow and search expert Amit Singhal as saying in his Search Engine Land report. "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...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."

Google notified Sullivan of its concerns shortly before a Bing search event scheduled for this week. Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft's Bing search engine, told Sullivan that opt-in programs such as the

Bing toolbar help the company with clickstream data, one of many input signals they and other search engines use to help rank sites. Weitz refers to the “Google experiment” as a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.

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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf



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