That’s something that went below many people’s radars: Google had suspicions about Bing stealing its search results from early on (around early May 2010). But these suspicions are now probably confirmed. Or maybe not?
I was first introduced to the battle while reading a post by Search Engine Land, which described Google’s suspicions over Bing using its results as a way to improve its own. Google decided to run an experiment about that, a “sting operation”. Google engineers assigned a specific page to a search term that noone would ever try to search for (i.e.juegosdeben1ogrande). Now, there you have the first controversial point: Google did not mention the ratio suspicious occations/number of experiments. Its blog’s post left this rather unclear. However, Search Engine Land and Microsoft provided us with a ratio of 7-9/100. Is this number representative? Well, it’s hard to tell, but still, having even a 7% similarity led Google to accuse Microsoft openly.
The fight between the two giants started. Microsoft issued a brief statement on February 1:
“We do not copy Google’s results.”
However, a small hint was obvious from Microsoft’s original response to the issue: Microsoft makes use of “multiple signals and approaches” in its quest of “doing a better job determining the intent of the search”. This points out directly to Microsoft’s MSN Toolbar and Windows Live Toolbar: one of this tool’s main quests is to identify the way users search for information and the time they spent on each result. And of course, what was the main search tool available back in 2007 (as suggested by Businessinsider’s article on the incident)? Google. And yes, this piece of info was available from June 2009.
Google’s main reaction was that competition through innovation is good, since it helps improving search results. However, the last words from its statement, about the copied results, are clear:
“We’d like for this practice to stop” (does this mean that they’ll take drastic measures to make it stop? Noone can still tell).
As is Microsoft’s answer, which accused Google of “click fraud” through its senior VP of Online Services Division, Yusuf Mehdi. And continued by stating that people have started wondering if Bing’s quality is the same, or, sometimes, better than Google’s, something that led Bing’s prime competitor to make accusations over something widely known.
The battle will probably continue, either with statements or in courts. It also generates new questions: Why didn’t Yahoo reacted as well (it is known that Bing monitors Yahoo as well)? Does Bing monitor users’ clickstream or their use of Google? The second question has generated long articles, which try to determine if data from users’ search queries on Google belong solely to Google or not.
However, one thing is clear: Microsoft entered the search engine territory, a place which belonged unquestionably to Google – which of course reacted. For the time being, Google is the undeniable king. But things change really fast in the online world, and the future of this rivalry is still unclear.
P.S.: That’s one of the examples that Google used in its “sting operation”.