Google Stings Bing, Bing Buzzes Back

Feb 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Marketing

A Google corporate sting operation against rival search engine Bing has caught Bing gathering user information to duplicate Google’s search results, Google alleged Tuesday, as reported by Search Engine News. In response, Bing corporate VP Harry Shum admitted to this practice but dismissed it as legitimate market research, and accused Google of pulling a “spy-novelesque” publicity stunt.

Bing is designed by Microsoft, which also produces the web browser Internet Explorer. According to Google, Bing has been using its Internet Explorer search bar to monitor what Google users search on and what they select from search results, and has been using that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. To prove this, Google coded some rare search terms using uncommon words into its algorithm, to see what would show up in Bing results. Sure enough, the bait words showed up.

Google representatives expressed outrage at this, comparing Bing’s behavior to a student who looks over a classmate’s shoulder instead of studying. Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who oversees Google’s search ranking algorithm, said, “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.”

But Bing denies the practice involves copying data, or amounts to anything more than competitive market research. Shum stated, “It’s not like we actually copy anything . . . we learn from the customers–who actually willingly opt-in to share their data with us. Just like Google does. Just like other search engines do.” Shum further scolded Google for promoting the story, characterizing it as “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.”

Google’s relationship with Bing is seemingly more antagonistic than its relationship with mutual rival Yahoo. Google and Yahoo have had a data-sharing partnership since 2000. Since 2009, however, Yahoo and Bing have joined in a Search Alliance, viewed as a potential rival to Google for the paid click advertising market. Between them, the three rival search engines effectively dominate 95% of the market. Google is far in the lead, receiving over 65% of all searches, with Yahoo in second place, and Bing in third.

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