Bing denies Google copying accusations

Search sting

Google has accused Microsoft's Bing search engine of cheating, after conducting a covert investigation involving planted results. Noticing that search results were becoming more and more similar - including for misspelled queries - Google decided to launch the 'Bing sting' in October 2010.

According to an official blog post by Google Fellow Amit Singhal, Google's engineers planted unrelated real web pages in the results for 100 nonsensical or "synthetic" queries; for example, for the query "hiybbprqag" they planted a theatre seating plan. They then used Internet Explorer to search for the query, and click on the planted result. Within a couple of weeks, reports the blog post, the same result was coming top in the rival search engine.

The fallout

Singhal concluded that "Bing results increasingly look like an incomplete, stale version of Google results--a cheap imitation." Bing, meanwhile, strongly denies the allegations of copying. In an email to Search Engine Land, director Stefan Weitz said: "Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites."

These "opt-in programs" could include Internet Explorer, which anonymously collects the movements of its users, even their Google searches. However, Bing claims clickstream data capture is "one of 1,000 signals" used in search results rankings. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the results were correlated simply due to their nonsensical nature - if perhaps the clickstream data was the only one of the 1,000 signals producing a result.

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