Google accuses Bing of copying search results

Google has accused Microsoft of copying its search results in Bing, having set a "honeypot" trap in December 2010 that spotted mirrored results on both networks for meaningless search terms. According to Search Engine Land, Microsoft has been using tracking tools to identify Google search results according to user queries, then tweak its own Bing results accordingly.

"It's cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work. I don't know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it's like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line" Amit Singhal,Google

Google first noticed overlap when its spelling correction results seemed to be replicated in Bing searches, and then again when the similarities between the top ten results from both engines overlapped even more. To test more conclusively, Google set up 100 synthetic searches with staged results, and found that 7-9 subsequently turned up as Bing's top results as well.

Both the Bing toolbar and the Suggested Searches feature in Internet Explorer have been highlighted as potential sources of tracking information, and it's worth noting that both give users the choice to not send usage information back to Microsoft. For its part, Microsoft denies any wrongdoing, suggesting instead that it's normal practice to use opt-in programs to better educate its systems.

"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." Stefan Weitz, director of search, Microsoft