Google is accusing Microsoft of cheating in its Bing search results but Microsoft denies the charge, saying it's just using all available weapons to lessen its rival's dominance.
On February 1, Google went public with claims that Microsoft is copying Google search results with Bing. Microsoft responded by just saying that it does not copy Google's results.
In a blog post Google Fellow Amit Singhal, defended Google' s claim and actually exposed Microsoft's tactics by presenting specific examples.
He referred to the 'tarsorrhaphy,' search query. Tarsorrhaphy is a rare surgical procedure on eyelids. Singhal presented a screenshot of Google's page from the summer 2010. There, when someone was looking at the search results for an unusual misspelled query [torsorophy], Google returned the correct spelling 'tarsorrhaphy' along with results for the corrected query. At that time, Bing had no results for the misspelling. Singhal claims that later in the summer, Bing started returning Google's first result to their users without offering the spell correction. "This was very strange. How could they return our first result to their users without the correct spelling? Had they known the correct spelling, they could have returned several more relevant results for the corrected query," Singhal said.
He continued saying that over the following months Google noticed that URLs from Google search results would later appear in Bing with increasing frequency for all kinds of queries, including search results that Google would consider mistakes of its algorithms.
In late October 2010, Google noticed a significant increase in how often Google's top search result appeared at the top of Bing's ranking for a variety of queries. To test the hypothesis, Google needed an experiment to determine whether Microsoft was really using Google's search results in Bing's ranking.
Google created about 100 "synthetic queries" - queries that users yare never expected to type, such as [hiybbprqag]. As a one-time experiment, for each synthetic query Google inserted as Google's top result a unique (real) webpage that had nothing to do with the query. In other words, there was absolutely no reason for any search engine to return that webpage for that synthetic query.
Google gave 20 of its engineers laptops with a fresh install of Microsoft Windows running Internet Explorer 8 with Bing Toolbar installed. As part of the install process, Google opted in to the "Suggested Sites" feature of IE8, and accepted the default options for the Bing Toolbar.
Google asked these engineers to enter the synthetic queries into the search box on the Google home page, and click on the results.
"We were surprised that within a couple weeks of starting this experiment, our inserted results started appearing in Bing. Below is an example: a search for [hiybbprqag] on Bing returned a page about seating at a theater in Los Angeles. As far as we know, the only connection between the query and result is Google's result page," Singhal added.
Google said that it saw this happen for multiple queries. The company concluded that that Bing is using some combination of
Internet Explorer 8, which can send data to Microsoft via its Suggested Sites feature, the Bing Toolbar, which can send data via Microsoft?s Customer Experience Improvement Program
or possibly some other means to send data to Bing on what people search for on Google and the Google search results they click. "Put another way, some Bing results increasingly look like an incomplete, stale version of Google results?a cheap imitation," Singhal added.
"At Google we strongly believe in innovation and are proud of our search quality. We've invested thousands of person-years into developing our search algorithms because we want our users to get the right answer every time they search, and that's not easy. We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms out there?algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results from a competitor. So to all the users out there looking for the most authentic, relevant search results, we encourage you to come directly to Google. And to those who have asked what we want out of all this, the answer is simple: we'd like for this practice to stop," Google's fellow said.
Google's attempt to embarrass seems to worked, and Microsoft shortly tried to respond to Google's accusations. The company underlined its efforts to deliver the best search relevance and quality in the industry and for its users. It said that over 1,000 different signals and features are used in Bing's ranking algorithm. In addition, Microsoft said that "a small piece of that is clickstream data is received from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users."
In a blog post, Harry Shum, Corporate Vice President of Bing, said described Google's story as "a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking" and "a creative tactic by a competitor." "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," he said.
Shum added that the history of the web and the improvement of a broad array of consumer and business experiences is actually the story of collective intelligence, from sharing HTML documents to hypertext links to click data and beyond.
"Many companies across the Internet use this collective intelligence to make their products better every day. We all learn from our collective customers, and we all should," he said.
He continued saying that Microsoft has "a distinct approach to search, and the features and innovation in Bing."
"We never set out to build another version of an existing search engine. We believe search needs to do more for customers. This is the guiding principle in how we approach our work each day."