Google accuses Microsoft's Bing of 'cheating, copying' search results

Feb 01, 2011 By JESSICA MINTZ , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- Google is accusing Microsoft Corp. of cheating as the two duel for Internet search supremacy, but Microsoft denies the charge, saying it's just using all the tools available to lessen its rival's dominance.

The dust-up between the two companies that process much of the world's search requests grabbed the spotlight Tuesday at an event sponsored by Microsoft about the future of Internet searches. Microsoft's practices have even wider implications now that its technology powers Yahoo Inc. searches in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil and Mexico.

Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web spam team, said the company noticed last year that Bing was returning search results that seemed a little too close to Google's own - especially for obscure, misspelled queries.

Google Inc. suspected Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser and various toolbars and plug-ins were feeding information back to Microsoft that would help Bing's results become more Google-like.

And so, Google laid a trap. The company made a list of gibberish or obscure search terms and manually linked them to unrelated websites. Then, 20 Google engineers took home laptops loaded with Internet Explorer, searched Google.com for those terms and clicked on the artificial results. Soon after, searching for the same odd terms on Bing would call up the same odd results.

Cutts likened the trap to a mapmaker drawing a fake street or the Yellow Pages adding a fake name to its directory to flush out copycats.

The "Bing Sting" was also detailed early Tuesday on the Search Engine Land blog. Harry Shum, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Bing, responded during a panel discussion with Cutts at the San Francisco event, which was streamed over the Internet.

"It's not like we actually copy anything," Shum said. "We learn from customers who are willing to share data with us, just like Google does."

That data include not only the searches people type into Bing, but also into Google, and what links they click on. The information can be used to fine-tune Bing's own search results. And that sort of "collective intelligence," Shum said, is how the Web is supposed to work.

Cutts said Google doesn't use people's behavior on Bing the same way.

"I want to emphasize that we learn from our customers, our customers' data," Shum said. "Do you mean Google owns the data because (people) use Google's search engine?"

In a blog post, Shum called Google's trap "a spy-novelesque stunt."

Cutts and Shum traded jabs about whether people read the fine print when installing the Chrome or IE browser software that explains what Web surfing information is fed back to the company.

When the discussion moved on to the problem of increasing spam pages and low-quality content online, Shum blamed Google for rewarding the owners of such pages with advertising dollars.

Cutts said Google manually blocks spam pages regardless of whether they carry Google ads but wants to find a technology solution for the problem instead of picking off useless sites one by one.

Explore further: Shazam breaks 100 million monthly user mark

4.6 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Twitter tries to block images of Foley killing

11 hours ago

Twitter and some other social media outlets are trying to block the spread of gruesome images of the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants, while a movement to deny his killers publicity ...

User comments : 20

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
not rated yet Feb 01, 2011
I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft uses the IE trick. I've used Microsoft products since 1984, and I've seen things.
Doug_Huffman
5 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2011
Yesterday I d/l an app, innocuous according to my AV, and installed it after declining its baggage. Much later I noticed a large d/l in progress with no communicating app running! I could only let it finish to see - voila - "Bing Bar"! AVs need to flag M$ crap as crap.
TheQuietMan
5 / 5 (5) Feb 01, 2011
Any toolbar that requires a click not to install it is crap IMO. It is much like the "you must opt out not to buy" schemes that seem to abound out there.

I'm not surprised to see M/S do this, it does with the tactics they have used in the past. If you can't innovate, steal, and let the courts sort it out later. With any other company I would be worried about a lawsuit, but the behavior is well documented.

While Google isn't angelic either they invented the innovations. If they patented their idea (don't remember where they did or not) it would be interesting to see who else uses it.

The good news is it isn't all bad. Innovations feed off each other long term, and we end up with something better.
derricka
5 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2011
I wonder how many computer users actually realize they are "willing to share data" with Microsoft. The "agreement" is probably in the software installer, buried in legal fine print. The tech who installs the software clicks "Ok", and the end user never realizes that Microsoft is effectively spying on all their searches, and probably more. Well, don't know about you, but I find this repugnant, and If it isn't illegal already, it should be. I hope Google takes Microsoft to court.
Jayman
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2011
Though Google does not have a leg to stand on legally, this behaviour by MS is unethical to say the least. Just goes to prove that MS has lost the plot. Here's a company that is going down the gurgler in slow motion. They can beautify the results every quarter, but the trend is unmistakable. MS is now officially a Zero-Innovation Company.
Temple
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2011
Well, don't know about you, but I find this repugnant, and If it isn't illegal already, it should be. I hope Google takes Microsoft to court.


It constantly amuses me how little people know about how much of Google's fortune has come from harvesting user activity data.

Microsoft got caught at nothing more than trying to copy the master. Google is simply much better at harvesting user data than Microsoft.
CreepyD
3 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2011
I always wonder what Micorsoft's ~89,000 employees get up to. A good example is 10 years to go from XP to Windows 7? Come on..
Microsoft are now one of many 'followers' playing catch up while Google and Apple forge the future.
bfast
5 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2011
Temple, "It constantly amuses me how little people know about how much of Google's fortune has come from harvesting user activity data."

This isn't about harvesting user activity data. For instance, if a website is being clicked on by users, Google raises its priority a bit. Perfectly fair and wise.

But this is about using users as a conduit to harvest google search results. If it is illegal (and I believe it is) for Microsoft to have bing echo off a search to Google and render that search, then it should be just as illegal for Microsoft to have Bing throw a bunch of direct searches at Google, to "tweak" its database. If that is illegal, then it should also be illegal for Microsoft to use the google results returned by my google search to "tweak" Bing's search. That's what I believe they are doing -- hiring me, unbeknown to me, to feed the results of my google search into Bing.
frajo
4 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2011
I'm sick of Google. Google Google Google. Try playing a FPS on Google Android!
Everyone uses Windows because it's the best. Google is a company parasitica.
Windows is not the best. And not everyone is using windows.
trekgeek1
2 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2011
I'm sick of Google. Google Google Google. Try playing a FPS on Google Android!
Everyone uses Windows because it's the best. Google is a company parasitica.
Windows is not the best. And not everyone is using windows.


Not to mention that supporting the preferred video drivers for gaming isn't the sole measure of how good an operating system is. It is a plus, but there is much more to look at, especially if you are not a gamer.
Nichole_Jones
not rated yet Feb 03, 2011
Can we stop talking Google and Bing? Let us try blekko or AAfter Search for better privacy.
iKnighty
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 05, 2011
What a great idea.
Btw. People still using IE? Why? Just why?
Why stand by that piece of inefficient software?
Chrome/Opera/Firefox are all much better alternatives. Much better. Enough said.
sherriffwoody
3 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2011
90 odd percent of the world uses windows, so it must be the best. Windows 7 is definantly pretty good, better than mac, though some of the latest linux distros are nice.
I'm sick of Google. Google Google Google. Try playing a FPS on Google Android!
Everyone uses Windows because it's the best. Google is a company parasitica.
Windows is not the best. And not everyone is using windows.

sherriffwoody
not rated yet Feb 06, 2011
What a great idea.
Btw. People still using IE? Why? Just why?
Why stand by that piece of inefficient software?
Chrome/Opera/Firefox are all much better alternatives. Much better. Enough said.

no way is opera better than ie9, its way to slow by latest chrome and ie9 stds, and firefox is starting to get quite heavy, i think its due for a rewrite to lighten it up again, similar to what symantic had to do with norton. its start up times are very painful
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2011
I'm sick of Google. Google Google Google. Try playing a FPS on Google Android!
Everyone uses Windows because it's the best. Google is a company parasitica.
Windows is not the best. And not everyone is using windows.
90 odd percent of the world uses windows,
No, as considerably less than 90 percent of the world own a computer.
so it must be the best.
But:
99 percent of the biosphere are unicellular, so it must be the best. 99 percent of flies prefer excrement, so it must be the best. 99 percent of TV viewers prefer entertainment, so it must be the best.
99 percent of human brains tend to be lazy, so it must be the best.
frajo
not rated yet Feb 06, 2011
no way is opera better than ie9
This way:
IE9 runs only on MS OSs. Opera and firefox run on MS OSs and several non-MS OSs.
For ABM people like me IE is a no-go no matter which release. [ABM = anything but microsoft.)

And yes, of course 99% of the world don't own a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche. Some systems indeed are a bit demanding.
sherriffwoody
3 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2011
I'm sick of Google. Google Google Google. Try playing a FPS on Google Android!
Everyone uses Windows because it's the best. Google is a company parasitica.
Windows is not the best. And not everyone is using windows.
90 odd percent of the world uses windows,
No, as considerably less than 90 percent of the world own a computer.
so it must be the best.
But:
99 percent of the biosphere are unicellular, so it must be the best. 99 percent of flies prefer excrement, so it must be the best. 99 percent of TV viewers prefer entertainment, so it must be the best.
99 percent of human brains tend to be lazy, so it must be the best.

yes but you are all forgetting one thing, they don't have to use it, but they choose to use it, and don't tell me someone is holding a gun to their heads and making them. As for the ferrari thing, you're right, it would be good if more people used linux distros, as for mac, it defenantly aint ferrari, mutton dressed as lamb
Arikin
not rated yet Feb 06, 2011
Please stop the "Who is better" banter. It does not good.
- Those who have preference buy what they prefer.
- Those who have no preference buy what others suggest.

So stop trying to push your own agenda because it is just that, yours.
frajo
not rated yet Feb 07, 2011
Please stop the "Who is better" banter. It does not good.
Depends.
- Those who have preference buy what they prefer.
- Those who have no preference buy what others suggest.
Indeed.
So stop trying to push your own agenda because it is just that, yours.
My own agenda is an OS which none of you knows. I didn't ever mention it on PhysOrg.
When somebody writes major BS like "xxx is the best because it's the most" someone else ought to correct the BS in order not to spoil the youth or to promote the OS mafia.
they don't have to use it, but they choose to use it
Nonsense. When in the non-MS world someone is asked why he uses an MS system as secondary OS he usually admits that he is forced to use it. By his boss, his family, his friends etc.
And the uninformed people don't choose - they don't have the criteria to choose. The take what their ilk, the uninformed, take.
jjoensuu
not rated yet Feb 07, 2011
Any toolbar that requires a click not to install it is crap IMO


Absolutely agree with you. And I have had multiple cases where I have had to untick the option to not to install Googles toolbar. It_is_quite_annoying.

Google tracks, stores, and uses the users online behavior just as crappily as other companies, a fact that they themselves of course will never admit because for them their image ("do no evil", etc) is even more important than what they actually do with the data.