Microsoft's Mehdi Plays Pot Meet Kettle with Google

So if you've been following the Google-Microsoft Copygate fiasco, you know that Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, shot back at Google for accusing it of copying its search results. Mehdi plainly stated: We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period.

So if you've been following the stated:

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting."

Fine. What Microsoft does do is siphon off "customer data" based on what users clicked on, which means it likely picked up some search results people made through Google. Microsoft calls this collective intelligence. Google calls it cheating.

For a media member, this is semantic hair splitting. I'm amused but not bothered and yet... I think Google has serious gall here.

If you go back the past year-plus, you'll see there have been a lot of moves Bing has made that Google appears to have "followed," "aped," or "mimicked."

I'm not saying Google stole code. I'm saying Google liked some things Bing did and recreated them for Google, in the name of what "customers have asked us for."

Mehdi himself alluded to this point in his blog post. Here are a few examples I can think of.

Google followed Microsoft Bing in late 2009 by integrating Twitter tweets, though I must say Google's way is superior and offers deeper integration.

Go back to May 2010 and you'll see Google introduced more navigation tabs on its left-hand rail, something Bing did from go.

One month later, Google began letting users add a photo or image to the background of the Google homepage. Bing launched with a jazzy homepage background.

Google in July made its 45° aerial imagery view made its 45° aerial imagery view, available in select cities in the United States and worldwide to all users of Google Maps.

That is something Microsoft offered in Live Search, which rolled into Bing.

Finally, Google revamped its Image Search service. As I noted last July:

"Like Bing, Image Search now sports a dense, tiled layout that packs more images on the Web page and makes them easily searchable. Moreover, instant scrolling between pages lets searchers sift through up to 1,000 images in one page without having to click through links to get to their content."
"Another feature Google has added that Bing employed a year ago is a simple hover pane. Users who mouse over a thumbnail image are treated to a larger preview, more info about the image and Image Search features such as Similar images, which shows exactly what it implies."

And I'm still waiting for Google to integrate Facebook profile info the way Bing has done. Oh wait, I shouldn't hold my breath. I don't think Facebook would give this data to a mighty rival.

Then you have, as I mentioned yesterday, the myriad instances over the last decade where you could argue Google copied business and technology solution, from Overture's business model to Java code for Android, the latest legal imbroglio.

My point is: who is copying who? Answer: everyone at some point seems to copy everyone else. There is a fine line between innovation and iteration. Google and Microsoft straddle it.

The arguments that result are just low-brow entertainment. Don't take them seriously.