Sunday, February 6, 2011

Google calls Microsoft a copycat (week in review)

Google has a harsh word to describe Microsoft: plagiarist.

After noticing curious search results at Bing, then running a sting operation to investigate further, Google has concluded that Microsoft was copying Google search results into its own search engine. The story began with Google's team for correcting typographical errors in search terms, which monitors its own and rivals' performance closely.

Next came the sting, which featured a one-time code that manually ranked a page for a specific term. Google then had employees type in those terms from home using Internet Explorer with both Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar enabled, clicking the top results as they went. Two weeks later, Bing showed the Google results that had been hand-coded.

A Bing executive acknowledged monitoring what links users clicked but essentially described it as letting humans help gather data through crowdsourcing.

However, another executive was adamant that Microsoft was not using Google's search results.

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop," Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's senior VP of its Online Services Division, wrote in a post on Bing's community blog. "We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting."

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