Microsoft keeps firing back at Google accusations that Bing copies its Web-search results, with an executive claiming Google is worried about Bing's progress.
Google accusing Bing of
copying its Web-search results, blogged a Microsoft executive Feb. 2, is possibly
motivated by the search-engine giant's fears of losing ground to its upstart
"We do not copy results from
any of our competitors. Period. Full stop," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president
of Microsoft's online services division, wrote
on the Bing Community blog. "We have some of the best minds in the world at
work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any of
these people of such activity is just insulting."
a widely circulated Feb. 1 posting, the blog Search Engine Land detailed
what it called the "sting operation" against Bing, which apparently began after
Google executives grew suspicious of how closely some of Bing's search results
mirrored their own. After finding terms with no matches on either search
engine, the company apparently created "honey pot" pages that appeared on top
of search results for those terms. When a small portion of Bing search results
seemed to mirror Google's forced pages, the latter began leveling accusations.
"Our testing has concluded
that Bing is copying Google Web-search results, and Microsoft doesn't deny
this," Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, wrote in a Feb. 1 e-mail to eWEEK. "At
Google, we strongly believe in innovation and are proud of our search quality.
We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms out there,
from Bing and others-algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled
search results copied from a competitor."
The sniping continued into
the Feb. 1 roundtable discussion at the Farsight Summit, where Microsoft
Corporate Vice President Harry Shum and Google Principal Engineer Matt Cutts
seemed determined to verbally shred one another into bite-sized pieces.
"It's almost like a map
maker who constructs a fake street and sees if that street gets copied," is how
Cutts described Google's operation to the audience.
But Shum seemed unwilling to
accept the accusations. "It's not like we actually copy anything; it's more
that we learn from the customers who willingly share data with us," he shot
back, "where we actually learn from the customers from what kind of queries
they type." Bing Bar and similar features are capable of feeding that sort of
data to Microsoft.
In his blog posting, Mehdi
reiterated Shum's argument.
"In simple terms, Google's
-experiment' was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of
attack also known as -click fraud,'" he wrote. "As we have said before and
again in this post, we use clickstream optionally provided by consumers in an
anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site
might make sense to be in our index."
But why would Google go to
such lengths? Mehdi has the answer-or at least some deliberately leading
"In October 2010, we
released a series of big, noticeable improvements to Bing's relevance. So big
and noticeable that we are told Google took notice and began to worry," he
wrote. "Then, a short time later, here come the honey-pot attacks. Is the
timing purely coincidence? Are industry discussions about search quality to be
ignored? Is this simply a response to the fact that some people in the industry
are beginning to ask whether Bing is as good or in some cases better than Google
on core Web relevance?"
According to research firm
comScore, Bing's share of the U.S. search market stood at 12 percent in
December 2010, well behind Google's 66.6 percent. Yahoo stood at 16 percent,
although Bing powers its back-end search. Even with Yahoo's share combined into
Microsoft's, though, Bing's audience remains half that of Google. But Microsoft
seems willing to lose millions of dollars per quarter backing its online
efforts, and Bing continues to make slight but steady gains in quarterly market
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.