Google thinks search rival Bing is cheating, plain and simple. Here's why:
December, Google--concerned that Microsoft's search engine was acting too darn Google-like--launched what Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan calls a "sting operation." The
search giant generated 100 gibberish search terms that yielded few if any results on
Google or Bing and then--clasping its hands together,
cocking its head back, and unleashing a peal of maniacal laughter--set
its trap. Engineers planted irrelevant "honeypot" pages at the top of
the results for these nonsensical search queries. Two weeks later, they found that
Bing surfaced these same fabricated results for just under a tenth of
the 100 terms.
Google accused Bing of
monitoring--in particular via Internet Explorer and the Bing
toolbar--what people search for and click on at Google in order to
enhance their own search engine. Google's Amit Singhal said it was as if his company was "running a marathon and carrying someone else
on [its] back, who jumps off just before the finish line." Bing's Harry
Shum, meanwhile, called
Google's sting operating a "spy-novelesque stunt" and
added that "we use over 1,000 different signals and features in our
ranking algorithm" to learn from customers, as all search
So, which side has the moral high ground in this search spat?
Should Revamp Its Strategy, concludes Search Engine Land's Sullivan, who broke the story: "Bing should develop its own search voice without using Google's
as a tuning fork."
- Google Should Get Even, Not Mad, argues
Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. He suggests a slogan for Google's next
marketing campaign: "Google: Search So Good, Even Bing Uses It."
- Google's Being Childish, claims
TechDirt's Mike Masnick. He contends that Google, facing mounting
complaints about the quality of its search results (see Wire coverage here), is unfairly attacking a competitor rather than improving its search experience.
- And Hypocritical, adds Christopher Mims at MIT's Technology Review:
If the internet is a food chain comprised of information, Google has long been its apex predator--the megalodon in a sea of small fry foolish enough to try to eke out a living by actually creating content rather than just pointing people to it. Now, for the first time ever, Google not only has competition, but competition savvy enough to deploy the same perfectly legal tactics upon which Google's vast fortunes rest.
- Bing's Excuse Is Ridiculous, asserts
Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: "If I'd said 'I'm not cheating,
Mr. Zimand, I am simply using Medora's test answers as information to
help me decide what my test answers will be,' well, I probably wouldn't
have made it through AP U.S. History."
- Legally, Much Depends on What Bing Does With Google Data, reports
PaidContent's Joe Mullin. He notes that the data in Google's search
results isn't protected by copyright but the ordering of its search
If Microsoft is whole-hog swiping Google's results to solve a particular problem that it can't solve--misspelled search queries, for example--it could get in real trouble ... But if Microsoft is just using the Google search results as it says it is--as one of more than 1,000 different variables that improve its algorithm--it's likely in the clear.
- A Rising Tide Lift All Boats, reasons
Gizmodo's Kat Hannaford: "You could argue that if it's not illegal,
what's the big issue? If it helps Bing become a better search
engine--and maybe even spur on Google to crank the gears a little
faster--then surely we should just be happy that everyone's receiving
improved search results, no matter what engine they use?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.