Microsoft Bing VP Denies Copying Google Search Results

Microsoft vehemently denied copying Google search results but acknowledged using customer data to improve its Bing search engine. Google disagreed, and the back and forth flowed.

A vice president for Microsoft's Bing team denied configuring the Bing algorithm to copy Google search results in an effort to boost search market share.

What Bing does use is "clickstream," or customer data from its Bing toolbar to improve its search results, said Harry Shum, corporate vice president of core search development at Microsoft.

Shum defended Bing at a search engine roundtable Feb. 1 and accused Google of cultivating "spy-novelesque" propaganda where none truly exists.

The roundtable included Google search quality engineer Matt Cutts, who broached the notion that Bing was copying Google results with Search Engine Land ahead of the "Bing Presents Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box" event today.

Cutts explained Google noticed in June 2010 that Bing had the same results for some queries despite that fact that they were misspelled.

The trend continued through December, and Google performed an experiment, having Google search engineers perform searches on 20 Windows laptops loaded with Internet Explorer 8 and with Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar enabled.

Cutts said Google created code that would allow it to manually rank a page for a certain term, and then created 100 synthetic searches to test its theory. The fake queries returned no matches on Google or Bing, but Google placed a honeypot page to show up at the top of each synthetic search.

A few weeks later, a small number of Bing search results appeared to copy Google's results from the synthetic searches. Google concluded that some of the data the Bing toolbar collected clearly culled data about activities users may have been doing via Google.

"Microsoft has said they don't copy the results, and we have screenshots that make it look very much like that's what's happening," Cutts said to Shum.