Bing ‘Borrows’ Google Search Results

Google today made waves in the search industry claiming they had set a trap, and busted Bing using Google Search results. This seems like a pretty big deal, but Bing are calling it a PR beat-up to steal the spotlight from their search event and redirect some of the negative attention Google has been receiving lately regarding their spam/relevancy issues.

Either way it likely probably the most interesting, controversial thing to happen in search for some time. Here here’s a break down of all the juicy goss and name calling, as it happened:

Google uses Danny Sullivan to break the story on Search Engine Land: Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results.

Bing eventually post an official reply: Thoughts on search quality.

Google then follow up with a story on their official blog: Microsoft’s Bing uses Google search results—and denies it.

To which Bing replied with Setting the record straight.

Looks like we may not have heard the last of this, both parties wanting the final say.

All the while there was some good back and forth on Twitter from reps of each company. For example, checkout this awesome twitter flame thread:

Matt Cutts
So far Bing’s response seems to be “We don’t copy Google’s results. Of course we do.” http://goo.gl/8VoDJ vs. http://goo.gl/yW4Ia

Frank X. Shaw
@davewiner Google had employees log onto ms customer feedback system and send results to Microsoft.

Matt Cutts
@fxshaw @davewiner normal people call that “IE8”.

Frank X. Shaw
@mattcutts hey if this whole engineering thing doesn’t work out for you, try PR — you’ve got the chops for it.

A couple of nice zingers!

Closing Arguments
Bing
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.

Google
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.

Conclusion
The long and short of it is that Bing are owning up, but downplaying it. Saying that they may use user data, including Google Search results as one over one thousand (really?) ranking signals in their search algorithm. Google are still crying foul but what, if anything they can do about it remains to be seen.

I can see it from both parties point of view. Bing is a relatively new player, playing catch-up to a search monolith. They could be forgiven for using any tactic to make up ground. However, Google has been at it for many years, investing a lot of man power and money to get to where they are today, and are probably right to be angry at their main (pretty much only) competitor trying to take a short cut and piggy back on their results.

How do you see it?

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