Microsoft Accuses Google of Feigned Outrage, Click Fraud, Copying Bing


In a response to Google's recent sting operation on Bing, Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP for Microsoft's Online Services Division, accused Google of "feigned outrage" and wrote in a blog post that "Google's 'experiment' was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as 'click fraud.'"

Eh? What Click Fraud?

Recently, Google tweaked its search engine to return illogical results for made-up search terms like "mbzrxpgjys" or "hiybbprqag". The team of 20 or so engineers then went home at night and manually searched on those made-up words and all clicked on the false results using Internet Explorer, with Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar enabled.

The Bing toolbar collects and leverages anonymous click-stream data in their SERP ranking algorithms, and within a few weeks, since there were no other ranking signals on the made-up words, the same illogical results started showing on Bing - "evidence" that Google claims, is proof that Bing was copying their algorithm.

The Bing Product Team's Response

Microsoft has on many occasions disclosed that it uses such data as part of the Bing algorithm, but the company says that the practice isn't new, and it argues that the situation is being taken out of context and blown out of proportion.

"We do look at anonymous click stream data as one of more than a thousand inputs into our ranking algorithm. We learn from our customers as they traverse the web, a common practice in helping to improve a wide array of online services," said Mehdi in his blog post. "We have been clear about this for a couple of years."

Mehdi concluded by pointing out an article in the New York Times that documented instances in which Google has copied features from Bing, implying that Google is the real copycat. "Whether they have done it well we leave to customers. But more importantly, we take no issue and are glad we could help move the industry to adopt some good ideas.

So Just Who is the real copycat here? (and Who Cares?)

Isn't the real story here that Google dedicated 20 engineers to developing the Bing Sting?. Write your response in the comment fields below!

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Feb 03, 2011

Hmm, why not just fess up and say, "er, we're sorry - it wasn't really meant to be scraping Google's results but clearly it is so we need to make some changes here." Its comparing apples and oranges to liken this to re-engineering functionality. All companies do that and it is allowed, legal, and in the interests of users. There are supposed to be strict laws (patent and copyright) to regulate this. I think there's a potential legal copyright breach here: copying Google's data, which is very different to including similar UI features as Google did recently. UI innovation is a place where we accept more plagiarism. Copying data is one that is not tolerated so much. Sure google made the most of this, and why on earth shouldn't they. Mark (in London) Web Marketing and WordPress Websites for freelancers and small business

Feb 03, 2011

Hi Mark,

You need to get your facts straight. There is no proof whatsoever that Bing was copying search results from Google, let alone scraping them. There is a big difference between drawing correlations from a user's click stream and scraping the page. In fact, if Google had made 10 fake results and only clicked on the 10th, I bet the other 9 wouldn't show up in Bing. If they *had*, then you have proof of Bing scraping Google. Right now you have proof that Bing in fact uses click stream data to augment search results, which is something they've been quite open about.

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