Microsoft: 'We do not copy Google's results'

Microsoft: 'We do not copy Google's results'

Summary: On February 1, Google went public (via SearchEngineLand.com) with claims that Microsoft is copying Google search results with Bing. Microsoft is denying the charge, but has yet to provide specifics in its own defense.

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On February 1, Google went public (via SearchEngineLand.com) with claims that Microsoft is copying Google search results with Bing.

Google's 'Bing Sting' evidence (screenshots)

(SearchEngineLand has details of how Google created a "Bing Sting" operation to try to catch Microsoft in the act.)

Is Microsoft copping to the claim? Here's the original response Microsoft is providing to folks who are asking:

"We use multiple signals and approaches in ranking search results.  The overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search so we can provide the most relevant answer to a given query. Opt-in programs like the toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites," said Stefan Weitz, Director, Bing.

(Update: Matt Rosoff at Silicon Alley Insider has some good historical perspective on how Microsoft has been using its toolbar add-on for Internet Explorer to keep tabs on search terms and topics.)

I went back and asked the Bing folks again, noting that I couldn't figure out if this was a verbose way of admitting Bing was copying or a denial.

Here's the new statement, attributable to a company spokesperson:

"We do not copy Google's results."

I'm expecting there could be a longer and more detailed answer, via a blog post or a statement during today's Farsite 2011 future of search event. If Microsoft isn't copying Google's results, how do they explain the results of the "Bing Sting"? No word so far.

In the interim, the motto of today's story: The direct answer is almost always the best answer.

Update No. 2: And here it is: Microsoft has posted its explanation of how it uses more than 1,000 different "signals" to create its search algorithm. An excerpt of a blog post from Harry Shum, Bing Corporate Vice President:

"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."

The evidence

Google's search engine looked for the word 'tarsorrhaphy' after 'tarsoraphy' was typed into the search box.

A search on Bing for the misspelled word came up with the exact same results. Here is Google's comment.

Topics: Google, Browser, Cloud, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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198 comments
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  • Pretty massive fail

    If they are. The BING team is on a roll, why mess that up with nonsense like this?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

      @Cylon Centurion 0005

      I wouldn't call it nonsense. Even if they are using Google's results to help rank sites, isn't that akin to Google using Yahoo's directory to help rank sites?

      The only thing this 'experiment' proves to me is that Google can and does manipulate search results. How deep that rabbit hole goes is anyone's guess.
      Rich Miles
      • Google doesn't "manipulate search results"

        @azzlsoft

        Google created a scenario where nonsensical terms were manually linked to a honeypot page result. This manual linkage would have immediately broken if organic search patterns naturally bumped other results higher.

        Google did nothing except prove that Microsoft uses click-through data captured from IE and the Bing toolbar to piggyback on Google's superior search algorithm.

        If anyone actually needed additional proof that Bing is nothing but a lame Google knock-off, here it is.
        RationalGuy
      • Rational Guy. Google has piggy-backed on Windows from it's start

        And unless you are clueless, Google chose it's iconic colors to almost match Microsoft's. Sure, there is no trademark on the use of primary colors, but in a different business climate Microsoft would have had a valid claim that the color usage is too close for competitors.
        Google would be nothing w/o the Windows infrastructure on which it operates. And Google has flaunted that in the past. I think MS should piggyback Google as much as possible and find a way to use Google futher for their own gains, as Apple, SUN, Google and hundreds of other companies have done with the Windows infrastructure and customer base.
        Seems turn-about is NOT fair play with Google.
        They run crying and whining to whoever will listen every chance they get. They continue to do so to the DoJ but continue to be shown the door. Considering Google is the main aim of the DoJ Anti-Trust's top cop, I don't think MS has much to fear going forward.
        Google is the new Microsoft in the eyes of the DoJ and Ms. Varney has been quoted saying as much.
        Maybe this is Schmidt's doing because he's mad that he got kicked out of the CEO position and can't be the "man" to fight it out with Microsoft. He has deep seated hatred that he can no longer flip his tie around over with that smirk in inteviews. He has to miss that.
        xuniL_z
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @RationalGuy

        Today, Matt Cutts completely dodged the assertion that Google does the exact same thing -- collecting usage statistics -- with the Google Toolbar and Chrome. It is completely disingenuous to call it "copying".

        Google gamed Bing plain and simple. Does that mean that Bing has an issue? Probably. Does that mean they're "copying Google". Put simply: no. I would wager that I could put a gobbledy-gook link on my website and click it with the Bing bar installed and it would be indexed in Bing. Does that mean that Bing is copying me? If I got 20 people to click on the link with the Bing bar installed it would probably happen even faster.

        The sad thing is that Google took 20 engineers to deduce that Bing toolbar is collecting what users type and what links they click on.

        It's a sham.
        Rich Miles
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @azzlsoft ... if I could flag your posts as "AWESOME" I would. Clearly you are someone who "gets" it.
        GoodThings2Life
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @azzlsoft and 2xunil
        This is totally different. We are talking about search and not "iconic colors" in the logo. This is plagiarism and coming from Microsoft, doesn't surprise me a bit...
        prof123
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @xuniL_z
        Well "unless you are clueless" you haven't noticed burger king, KFC and mcdonalds all use similar iconic colors to each other either (facepalm).

        "Google would be nothing w/o the Windows infrastructure" you don't think software and browser vendors are forced rather than choose to work with Microsoft's monolithic desktop OS? And you don't think Microsoft loves that these would be "nothing w/o "the Windows infrastructure"? And you don't think this hurts consumers?? (triple facepalm)
        Getstevo
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @xuniL_z

        Well "unless you are clueless" you haven't noticed burger king, KFC and mcdonalds all use similar iconic colors to each other either (facepalm).

        "Google would be nothing w/o the Windows infrastructure" You don't think software and browser vendors are forced rather than choose to work with Microsoft's monolithic desktop OS? And you don't think Microsoft loves that these would be "nothing w/o "the Windows infrastructure"? And you don't think this hurts consumers?? (triple facepalm)
        Getstevo
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @xuniL_z

        The Windows infrastructure on which Google operates?

        You do realize that Google's server farms run linux, right?
        marmotfl
      • Usage statistics ...

        @azzlsoft

        <i>Today, Matt Cutts completely dodged the assertion that Google does the exact same thing -- collecting usage statistics -- with the Google Toolbar and Chrome.</i>

        Has it been shown that Google collects usage statistics on Bing click-throughs and integrates the data into its search algorithm?

        No.

        <i>The sad thing is that Google took 20 engineers to deduce that Bing toolbar is collecting what users type and what links they click on.</i>

        It's actually incredible that Google figured out this was going on at all, given the amount of search term noise in which Microsoft was able to hide its shady practices.

        <i>It's a sham.</i>

        The only sham is Bing. They got caught red handed. Plain and simple.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We acutally are copying Googles results'

        @azzlsoft well, basically you r saying that google is a copycat too...! Well, actually google is the only fair player in this whole scheme. remember when a sector of the government was trying to create 800+ some odd mailboxes of Google without their permission...? I supposed a royalty would've been too much to ask, huh? Well, even though google is free like the others, bing doesn't offer email, hotmail does though. plus, google breeds all of their sources from their own listings and crawler/spider methods; all home grown. So, if they have some of the same listings as yahoo, it's because they explicitly interchanged a written agreement with the Y-dir and the Y-bot networks to acquire some SERP. Also, yahoo was the first publicly created email, search engine, and forum, but google came soon after, and bing is something not of the past. They are so new and trendy; but it's not Google...
        crcgraphix
    • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

      @Cylon Centurion 0005

      Saying Bing is on a roll is a bit of a stretch. For example, search for my favorite restaurant, Shealy's BBQ, in both engines. Only one returns the restaurant website on the first page, and it ain't Bing.

      Reasons like this that I have gone back to Google for all my searches.
      jglopic
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @jglopic Which Shealy's BBQ are you referring to? I did a search for Shealy's BBQ on Bing and found a lot of results that look pretty accurate : http://www.bing.com/search?q=Shealy%27s+BBQ&form=QBLH&qs=n&sk=&sc=8-12
        marksashton
      • Great BBQ

        @jglopic Off topic I know, but Shealy's is a great BBQ House. I love the mustard based sauce the best, but like the vinegar one as well. I also love their Hash (if it hasn't changed since last time I was there). It is about an hour drive for me, but after reading your post, I think I'll be making that drive soon. I wonder if Ray Lever's BBQ in Blythewood is still around, used to eat there too. In fact, my first job in computer field, I had a supervisor that was a BBQ fanatic. I don't think there is a BBQ House in the state that we didn't visit. Everytime we had to make a road trip for a service call, he seemed to know where every BBQ House was located. Have a nice day, and two thumbs up for Shealy's!
        kyn_67@...
      • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

        @marksashton What he means is that only Google has a result for the actual website for the place, bing just has results for reviews on it.
        Keep on clicking on it in Google though, eventually it will show up in Bing.
        AsherMaximum
    • Maybe that's the issue?

      @Cylon Centurion 0005
      Google doesn't want the competition, and bing's on a roll, so maybe anything they can do to discourage search "defectors" is worth doing?
      AllKnowingAllSeeing
      • A roll?

        @AllKnowingAllSeeing
        Bing still isn't even close to 10% market share. Any claims that it's on a role would idicate a severe misunderstanding of what being on a roll means. If by "on a roll" you mean it's being eaten alive by Google then yes, like fresh lobster meat smothered in mayo and drizzled with lemon they really are "on a roll". In the same vein, Linux on the enterprise desktop is on a roll, AOL is on a roll, Mel Gibsons career is on a roll , the political career of Hosni Mubarak is on a roll and album sales of Eilert Pilarm's Greatest Hits are on a roll.
        jasonp@...
    • Oh yeah, they're on a roll

      @Cylon Centurion 0005 ... they're only going to lose the shareholders two billion dollars this year. Yee haw.
      HollywoodDog
    • RE: Microsoft: 'We do not copy Googles results'

      @Cylon Centurion 0005

      The evidents (screen shots) do not show that Bing is copying, but show that Bing is powerful.

      Everything on the Web is searchable. If Google creates a new page and it shows in Bing shortly, it means Bing is fast and good.
      mlwan