Google Stings Microsoft

Google’s executives have grown suspicious of how closely Microsoft’s search engine results mirror their own. On Feb. 1, the blog Search Engine Land detailed Google’s “sting operation” against Bing.  

  • First, Google found some search terms with no matches on either search engine.
  • Next, Google created “honeypot” pages that appeared on top of its search results for those terms.
  • When a portion of Bing search results mirrored Google’s honeypot tainted results, accusations flew.

“At Google, we strongly believe in innovation and are proud of our search quality. We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms out there, from Bing and others–algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results copied from a competitor” wrote Google’s Amit Singhal in an e-mail to eWEEK.

Later, Google and Microsoft executives took the feud live onstage at the Farsight Summit . Microsoft Corporate VP Harry Shum claimed, “It’s not like we actually copy anything … Bing Bar and similar features are capable of feeding that sort of data to Microsoft.”

Yusuf Mehdi, Senior VP of Microsoft’s online services division, wrote on the Bing Community blog. “In simple terms, Google’s ‘experiment’ was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as ‘click fraud’.  We use click streams optionally provided by consumers in an anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site might make sense to be in our index.”

Google and Microsoft pour copious amounts of cash into their search engine technologies, and a rival piggybacking on their innovations is liable to make the average exec glow several shades of red.  Both companies have a long-established pattern of recognizing innovation and then offering similar features in response.  They will follow one another as an innovation is offered.

It will be interesting to see how this episode turns out, whether it is settled in court, or the court of public opinion.  Personally, I hope it doesn’t stifle development for either company, or end up in a long drawn out legal battle.