Google Tattles on Bing Copying Its Search Results

3
2001
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Inplace #2

angry_small.jpgADOTAS – Nothing quite gets my Tuesday going than a major search engine controversy. An epic report from Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan illuminates why Google is calling foul on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for copying its search results. Google first got suspicious last year when Bing returned similar results on queries with typos, especially on uncommon words (think unusual medical terms).

After a few more red flags, those wily Google engineers ran a complex sting operation that’s best explained by this graph:

What do you know — within a matter of days Bing served up the same top results for weird terms such as “hiybbprqag” and “indoswiftjobinproduction.” Thus, Google accused Microsoft of using its Suggested Sites feature within Internet Explorer as well as the Bing Toolbar for browsers to collect information about Google searches and input it into Bing’s algorithm.

Google’s outrage is palatable — “Cheaters! Cheaters!” the search team screams. And Bing is… Not sorry? Not even denying it? Not even sheepish?

Stefan Weitz, the director of Bing, wrote in an email to Sullivan: “Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This ‘Google experiment’ seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.”

Sullivan points out there doesn’t seem to be anything illegal in Microsoft mining Google search data to inform Bing sources. The engines’ top results and searches are still very different. Google search results are simply another data input for Bing’s algorithm — kinda clever really. Microsoft doesn’t seem to be copying, just taking advantage of another data stream.

However, is this unethical behavior in the realm of search engines? And if so, does anyone care? Because if Bing is “copying” Google’s results, the nascent search engine’s results are going to be just as full of SEO-gamed garbage. If it wasn’t to distinguish itself in the search realm, Bing really should be focusing on integrating social data from good buddy Facebook.