The web is already aflame with Google’s accusation that Bing is stealing its search results. Google created code to manually rank certain bogus search terms, and ten created mock web pages as the top search results for these bogus terms. It turned out that Bing would list the exact same mock web pages as its top search result for these bogus terms. Google is unhappy with it, but in all honesty – since when is it wrong to copy in the computer business?
To get the technical details behind the honeypot set up by Google, read the detailed article over at SearchEngineLand.com. It basically comes down to Microsoft using clickstream data collected from Internet Explorer users – through opt-in! – to improve search results in Bing. Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to look at which sites people click on after entering a search query in Google and then use this information to improve Bing.
You know, like how Android copies aspects of other mobile operating systems, and how Android engineers undoubtedly take iPhone usage patterns into account.
Google’s Amit Singhal, who oversees the search engine’s ranking algorithm, isn’t pleased. “I’ve spent my career in pursuit of a good search engine,” he said, “I’ve got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book.”
“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,” he added, “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.”
This seems like a strange response to me, since copying has been the very backbone of the tech industry for a long time now. Google has done its fair share of copying as well, so it seems incredibly hypocritical to me to complain like this. We already have Apple and Jobs for that.
Microsoft obviously doesn’t agree with Google, as Microsoft search executive Harry Shum explains. “We learn from all of our customers,” he states, “What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment. But it doesn’t accurately portray how we use opt-in customer data as one of many inputs to help improve our user experience.”
This seems like a storm in a teacup to me. I’m actually rather impressed by the cleverness of Microsoft’s use of opt-in data, and it would befit Google not to make such a fuss over this.