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Microsoft: Bing Is No Google Copycat

Senior search executive says Google's so-called "sting operation" only proves that Microsoft's rival is worried about improvements to Bing.

Paul McDougall

February 7, 2011

2 Min Read

Microsoft has vehemently denied that its Bing search engine copies results from Google in order to give users the most accurate search experience.

"We do not copy results from competitors. Period. Full stop," wrote Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP for Microsoft's online services division, in a blog post last week.

Mehdi's post was in response to Google's allegation that Bing engineers monitor search traffic and results on the Google search engine and tweak their own rankings accordingly. But Mehdi said the accusation is hogwash.

"We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting," said Mehdi.

The tiff began last week after the blog Search Engine Land published a story that quoted Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who said Google created a "honey pot" to catch Bing's alleged cheaters.

Google engineers manually inflated the rankings of certain pages for several highly obscure search terms. They claimed Bing's ranking of those pages also shot up shortly after they began their experiment—proving, they insisted, that Bing was copying Google search results.

"I've spent my career in pursuit of a good search engine," Singhal told Search Engine Land. "I've got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book," said Singhal.

But Mehdi said Google's "trap" was flawed, because Google itself caused Bing to take more notice of the baited pages by artificially inflating their popularity with Web users, the majority of whom access the Internet through Explorer. Mehdi noted that Microsoft anonymously tracks where Explorer users are going on the Web.

"We do look at anonymous click stream data as one of more than a thousand inputs into our ranking algorithm. We learn from our customers as they traverse the Web, a common practice in helping to improve a wide variety of online services," said Mehdi.

Mehdi said Google is simply worried about improvements that Microsoft rolled out to Bing last year. Among other things, Bing gained direct integration with Facebook, OpenTable, and geo-location service Foursquare.

According to market watcher comScore, Google is still by far the most popular search engine in the U.S. It garnered 66.6% of all U.S. search traffic in December, compared to 12% for Microsoft sites, and 16% for Yahoo sites, which redirect search traffic to Bing under an agreement between Microsoft and Yahoo.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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