Google: Bing Steals Our Results

Suspecting rival Bing piggybacks off its results, Google ran a sting operation to catch Bing in the act. Google says it’s proven that Bing copies results from users’ searches and uses the info to bolster its own output.

Search Engine Land quotes a high-level Google employee:

“I’ve spent my career in pursuit of a good search engine. I’ve got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book.”

Microsoft’s initial response to Search Engine Land:

As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry, we’re not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it. Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query.

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. This “Google experiment” seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.

And a follow-up from Microsoft, posted by ZDNet: “We do not copy Google’s results.”

Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results [Search Engine Land via Gizmodo]

Comments

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  1. Tim says:

    Sounds like Micro$oft doesn’t deny it, which is pretty bad. But is it illegal? If not, it should be.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      It does strike me as unethical, but why do you think it should be illegal?

    • Coles_Law says:

      “And a follow-up from Microsoft, posted by ZDNet: “We do not copy Google’s results.””

      I’d say they are denying it.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      What I predict will happen is that the sharp engineers at Google will figure out this exploit, and defeat it – or better yet, redirect all “stolen” search results to Google’s home page.

    • Tallanvor says:

      My understanding is that the Bing toolbar, provided users opted in, sends information back to Microsoft that they use to help understand what sites people are going to when searching for information. This information is gathered whether they search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search site. Google does similar things with, for example, the search bar built into Chrome. Yahoo used to do it with their toolbar as well (not sure what happens to that data now that Bing provides the results for Yahoo, though).

    • spamtasticus says:

      I hate to point out the obvious. But Google’s entire algorithm is based on scouring the internet to see how other pages “rank” other pages. This is exactly what bing is doing with Google. Don’t get me wrong, I really dislike Microsoft but Google is being hypocritical here.

  2. Rocket says:

    What’s Bing? Think I’ll Google it.

  3. skapig says:

    Bing’s algorithm of course (likely) doesn’t explicitly target Google results, but it certainly works out to be just as good for them. They are monitoring the links clicked on by users who have opted in. If those links happen to be Google search results, then they will be factored in. When you get a bunch of people clicking on the same link, it will start moving up in the ranks. The problem with Google’s “experiment” is that it is focused only on them. They make no attempt to determine if the results can be mirrored with other sites.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      So, if they’re copying the results from more than one search engine, that’s OK? Because after reading the article, it’s pretty obvious that Bing is simply tracking the clicked-on results from more useful and accurate search engines and using that to try to increase their relevance, rather than building a better algorithm. I don’t see how it matters if they’re “cheating” off of just Google or others, too.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I think the key step here is: is Microsoft just blatantly copying the results over or is it using the results to examine its own algorithms to replicate Google’s results? In other words, is Microsoft working backwards from the answer to the problem or are they just copying the answer from the smart kid?

        • tundey says:

          The answer is they are copying everyone. I suspect if Bing Toolbar users searched with AskJeeves (or whatever the 3rd option is these days), those results will make their way into Bing.

        • Cosmo_Kramer says:

          Considering that Google altered their results for random strings of text that shouldn’t have returned any results at all, I don’t know how Microsoft could have updated their algorithm to find pages for those strings of text when those pages didn’t contain the search string.

  4. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    I never thought there was any point to switching to Bing. Apparently I was right.

    Oh right, Google is evil, mines my data, etc, etc. Meh. Loves me some gmail.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think it’s funny that some people freak out about Google mining data, but they have their home address and phone number on their Facebook accounts. I know that Google mines my data and uses my searches, Google docs, search history, etc. to modify its algorithms. That’s how it improves searching. I don’t care that Google knows I spend a lot of time on Wikipedia, or that I always defer to Wikipedia when I need some random bit of trivia.

    • balthisar says:

      I use Bing for only one thing: driving directions in Mexico. (C’mon, Google, add driving directions to Mexico!)

  5. kriswone says:

    I use Bing first, if i don’t like what i see then i go to google. I love the pictures on Bing, google is to boring.

    • Rocket says:

      You can set your own background image on Google.

    • drizzt380 says:

      I’m the opposite. I like a very minimalist look to everything.

      I remember being annoyed when I was stuck with some “Google Search Background” for a day a while ago.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Me too. I love efficiency and when Google debuted with its simple white background, I was a fan for life. I don’t want clutter. It’s one of the reasons I like Wolfram Alpha a lot. It might not be the most effective search engine, but it’s simple, clean, and when it really works, it gives me detailed results.

    • Gekas says:

      When I need to learn something, I read magazines, and if I don’t find what I need, then I use books. I love the pictures in magazines, books are to boring.

  6. bender123 says:

    And by using the IE suggested sites and bing search bar on the systems google used, the data goes to Bing as well…Sounds like a pissing match to me.

  7. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    For those looking for more specifics without having to RTFA, here is the crux of it:

    “To verify its suspicions, Google set up a sting operation. For the first time in its history, Google crafted one-time code that would allow it to manually rank a page for a certain term (code that will soon be removed, as described further below). It then created about 100 of what it calls “synthetic” searches, queries that few people, if anyone, would ever enter into Google.

    These searches returned no matches on Google or Bing — or a tiny number of poor quality matches, in a few cases — before the experiment went live. With the code enabled, Google placed a honeypot page to show up at the top of each synthetic search.

    The only reason these pages appeared on Google was because Google forced them to be there. There was nothing that made them naturally relevant for these searches. If they started to appeared at Bing after Google, that would mean that Bing took Google’s bait and copied its results.

    This all happened in December. When the experiment was ready, about 20 Google engineers were told to run the test queries from laptops at home, using Internet Explorer, with Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar both enabled. They were also told to click on the top results. They started on December 17. By December 31, some of the results started appearing on Bing.

    To be clear, before the test began, these queries found either nothing or a few poor quality results on Google or Bing. Then Google made a manual change, so that a specific page would appear at the top of these searches, even though the site had nothing to do with the search. Two weeks after that, some of these pages began to appear on Bing for these searches.

    It strongly suggests that Bing was copying Google’s results, by watching what some people do at Google via Internet Explorer.”

    • tundey says:

      My problem with Google’s so-called trap is the fact that they installed Bing’s Toolbar and used IE’s “Suggested Sites”. Both features send usage data back to Microsoft (as stated in the terms of those features). So this isn’t Bing copying so much as Bing mining their user’s clickstream. Are we sure Google isn’t doing the same with Chrome? Or in fact with their search engine regardless of client browser?

      ——————————————————————————————————–
      When the experiment was ready, about 20 Google engineers were told to run the test queries from laptops at home, using Internet Explorer, with *Suggested Sites* and the *Bing Toolbar* both enabled. They were also told to click on the top results.
      ——————————————————————————————————–

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Well, I don’t think it matters if it’s through the Bing toolbar; if there was no Google, or their users didn’t use Google, Bing wouldn’t have placed those results where they did. That Bing may not have even known that the clicks were from a Google search is no more relevant than the source of an answer key to a test — using it is still cheating.

        And here’s more FTFA, in reference to your question:

        What About The Google Toolbar & Chrome?
        Google has its own Google Toolbar, as well as its Chrome browser. So I asked Google. Does it do the same type of monitoring that it believes Bing does, to improve Google’s search results?

        “Absolutely not. The PageRank feature sends back URLs, but we’ve never used those URLs or data to put any results on Google’s results page. We do not do that, and we will not do that,” said Singhal.

        Actually, Google has previously said that the toolbar does play a role in ranking. Google uses toolbar data in part to measure site speed — and site speed was a ranking signal that Google began using last year.

        Instead, Singhal seems to be saying that the URLs that the toolbar sees are not used for finding pages to index (something Google’s long denied) or to somehow find new results to add to the search results.

        As for Chrome, Google says the same thing — there’s no information flowing back that’s used to improve search rankings. In fact, Google stressed that the only information that flows back at all from Chrome is what people are searching for from within the browser, if they are using Google as their search engine.

        • tundey says:

          On the contrary, I think the use of Bing Toolbar and Suggested sites do matter. If it’s clearly said that Bing will mine your clickstream when you use those tools, I don’t think what Bing does is unethical. It’s essentially using users’ actions to tweak your search results. Every search engine would be wise to do the same. BTW, isn’t that what SEO is all about? Tweaking search results. In this case, it’s Bing using their users’ actions on Google to tweak the Bing search engine.

          Now if Bing itself was running searches on Google and using that to tweak their results, that’ll be stealing.

  8. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    What? Microsoft copied, borrowed, or appropriated something?

    Color me shocked.

    • DrLumen says:

      Same here. Really, I’m shocked it took M$ that long to copy google. The big problem was google being able to prove it.

      My opinion has always been that the world invents and Microsoft discovers. (look at the source of the first M$ DOS for confirmation)

  9. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    This is all Apple’s fault.

    I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But it just is.

  10. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    Well, I don’t think it matters if it’s through the Bing toolbar; if there was no Google, or their users didn’t use Google, Bing wouldn’t have placed those results where they did. That Bing may not have even known that the clicks were from a Google search is no more relevant than the source of an answer key to a test — using it is still cheating.

    And here’s more FTFA, in reference to your question:

    What About The Google Toolbar & Chrome?
    Google has its own Google Toolbar, as well as its Chrome browser. So I asked Google. Does it do the same type of monitoring that it believes Bing does, to improve Google’s search results?

    “Absolutely not. The PageRank feature sends back URLs, but we’ve never used those URLs or data to put any results on Google’s results page. We do not do that, and we will not do that,” said Singhal.

    Actually, Google has previously said that the toolbar does play a role in ranking. Google uses toolbar data in part to measure site speed — and site speed was a ranking signal that Google began using last year.

    Instead, Singhal seems to be saying that the URLs that the toolbar sees are not used for finding pages to index (something Google’s long denied) or to somehow find new results to add to the search results.

    As for Chrome, Google says the same thing — there’s no information flowing back that’s used to improve search rankings. In fact, Google stressed that the only information that flows back at all from Chrome is what people are searching for from within the browser, if they are using Google as their search engine.

  11. XianZhuXuande says:

    “Google has run a sting operation that it says proves Bing has been watching what people search for on Google, the sites they select from Google’s results, then uses that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. Bing doesn’t deny this.” is a pretty important paragraph from the original article.

    Great for Microsoft. If true, it is sneaky, underhanded, and smart. I wouldn’t complain if Bing came about to deliver better results. Google certainly doesn’t seem interested in dealing with the content mill spam that has trashed so many of their search results.

    • Total Casual says:

      Agreed. For technology-related searches, Google’s been going downhill for a while. In other areas, Google still does better. Why would MS *not* rip off Google’s results?

  12. sixsevenco says:

    I read about this yesterday, and I have a couple of thoughts…

    1. The general reaction of most people is that Google is avictim and that microsoft is cheating. I have not seen anyone question the fact that Google initially discovered all of this by examining in detail the functionality/performance of Bing’s engine. Why were they doing this?

    2. Bing connected the dots using data that was supplied to them via an opt in program. If I hand you the answer key, it doesn’t seem fair that I then go and call you a cheater.

  13. HotAirConsumer says:

    I hate Bing. I hate the fact that all MSN articles try to inflate their Bing searches. They word it like when you click it you will get the response. Instead it’s a Bing search and you have to wade through the results and its annoying. Nowadays I just read the article and click nothing.

    Bing is desperate for clicks!!!!!

  14. Red Cat Linux says:

    On the one hand, Microsoft is copying somebody else’s tech again. Anyone surprised? Anyone?

    There has not yet been a MS search engine that I thought was useful for anything other than searching for Technet or MS KnowledgeBase articles. Even Bing is just another in a long line of annoying MS search products.

    It bugs them somehow that they can’t pwn searches and take Google down a notch. MS is never content. That can be a good or a bad thing. Read it as you like.

    On the other hand, I wonder what the Google toolbar does…

  15. 3rdUserName says:

    What, no talk about how Google stole Bings image results layout this year?

  16. majortom1981 says:

    This should not matter. Google also steals users info . They got sued for gathering peoples wifi info and any accessible info available through open wifi access points with their street view cars.

    So how is this any different?

  17. svengali84 says:
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