Bing Vs. Google: Who’s the real villain?

Yesterday evening I came across Danny Sullivan’s recent post “Google: Bing is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results” on searchengineland. Soon after, Google stepped out of the closet with a post on their official blog “Microsoft’s Bing uses Google search results – and denies it.” Interestingly, it was published right before the Farsight 2011 conference between Matt Cutts (Head of Webspam, Google), Harry Shum (Bing Corporate VP) and Rich Skrenta (CEO, Blekko).
To be honest, I was shocked after reading them. Being an extreme Microsoft fanatic, I was a bit disappointed too. I asked myself “Is this really true? Is Bing actually copying Google’s search results?” I was not convinced so I decided to do a little background check.  This was Microsoft’s response to Google – “Setting the record straight.
Today, as the facts unfolded after a little analysis and reading some brilliantly written articles like “20 Google Engineers Prove Bing’s Privacy Policy“, the truth was out of Google’s secret black box. The table turned upside down. I’ll now sum up all my findings in a short and an organized way:
My first claim:
  • Microsoft does not copy Google’s search result.
To prove my point, I have this little picture that schematically demonstrates how online searches work.
Case 1: In a usual scenario, when the user enters a search query, a search engine uses signals to determine a particular page’s relevance to the search term. Signals like – Is the search term in the URL? Does the page title contain the keyword, Does the page contain the keyword, a page’s meta tag information, number of times the keyword appears in the page, etc. This happens on the search engine’s own database created while crawling the web.
Apart from that it also relies on click-through data on external sites like facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc. For example a video that was highly popular and making rounds on facebook will be ranked higher in the ‘Most Viewed’ section on YouTube. In this case, YouTube tracks click-through on facebook and uses this information to rank the videos on it’s own site. Similarly, both Bing and Google rely on click-through on external sites (including each other) as a source of signal for additional information.
Case 2: In the isolated scenario that Google created in the sting operation (using  honeypot technique) was searching for gibberish non-existent words on both Bing as well as Google. In this case what happened was since the search term was non-existent, Bing was unable to find anything relevant in it’s own database. It did not find any related information on facebook, twitter or any other websites either. So the only source of signal here was Google. Bing did not hack into Google’s database or scanned the Google search result page. It only used information obtained from user click-through data on Google, hence the resemblance in the search results.
Not to mention that Bing only showed similar search results in 9 out of the 100 tests (yes, 9/100) Google engineers conducted. Mathematically speaking, even when Google was the only source of signal – Bing only showed similarities in 9/100 cases. Now imagine when common terms are searched for and Bing has over a million external websites where it can look out for data, how much would Bing rely on Google? I’m sure you can do the Math.
Secondly, Bing uses click-through via “Suggested Sites” and the “Bing Toolbar” which are manual user opt-ins. They are not enabled by default. Also, Bing’s Privacy Policy clearly states that keywords/URL will be anonymously be sent to Microsoft in order to give the user a better, personalized search experience. Is this wrong? No.
My second claim:
  • Google copied Microsoft.
  1. Bing was the first to introduce the Background wallpaper, remember? Oh that, everybody does.
  1. Microsoft invented the “Page Summary” that pops up on the right to the search results. Google got inspired and came up with “Page Previews”.
  1. Remember the old Google image search? Apparently that got inspired from Bing too and introduced the ‘column on the left to the images’ in the search results page, the ‘all results on one-page’ concept and the ‘preview image thumbnail’ when you hover your mouse over it. See the below images for details
  2. Bing was the first to introduce ‘Twitter real-time’ search. After a couple of months, Google followed too. (read here – http://news.ebrandz.com/microsoft/2010/3237-bing-rolls-out-new-real-time-twitter-search-feeds.html and http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/174131/realtime_search_google_and_bing_rivalry_intensifies_on_facebook_and_twitter.html)
  3. I’m sure they’re trying their best to copy the Windows OS too and develop it (as Chrome OS), but seems like copying an OS is way difficult than copying minor UI tweaks on a search engine.
Conclusion?
Google’s generalization of a small isolated case where only in 9/100 cases Bing showed similarities to Google’s result and calling that “Bing copies Google’s search results” is absolutely ridiculous. This is the third time Google has cried foul over something which just doesn’t make sense
show your support for Bing :http://twibbon.com/join/I-Support-Bing
as said by  Kunal D. Mehta.
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