If you have followed the news lately you may have noticed articles about Bing stealing Google's search results on all major tech blogs. Lifehacker, Download Squad, Neowin and dozens of other blogs repeated what the original source over at Searchengineland claimed.
According to Danny Sullivan's article Google setup a honeypot to lure Bing into the trap. Google manipulated their search engine to rank honeypot pages for 100 words that neither Bing nor Google have found matches before. In the second step 20 Google engineers began to run test queries from their home computers running Internet Explorer with Suggested sites and the Bing toolbar enabled. The engineers were also asked to click on the first search result on Google that would come up.
Some of the results started to appear in Bing 14 days after the experiment had started. Interestingly enough, only 9 out of the 100 searches produced the same result on Bing and Google.
As a result, Google assumed that Bing was copying Google Search results.
Harry Shum, Corporate VP at Bing, today replied at the Future of Search event:
We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is clickstream data we get 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.
To be clear, we learn from all of our customers. What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and 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.
It is a fact that Bing uses data from its toolbar to improve their search results.
The question is: Did Bing copy Google's search results, or did they merely use the anonymous usage data from those 20 Google engineers (which included a search term and an url they clicked on) to improve Bing's search results for that query?
There are to many open questions that the claims are not justified, for instance: Why have only 9% of the search results been identical and not a higher number or even all of them.
The honeypot alone is no proof that Bing is indeed copying search results from Google. The explanation that Microsoft is making use of user queries and actions seems more reasonable.
What's your take on this? Let me know in the comments.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.