Search Engine Fight: Google’s Sting Against Microsoft’s Bing

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Here’s what happened.

Google suspected Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, of copying some Google-ish search technology to display certain results to users.

The long version has been thoroughly covered by search expert Danny Sullivan but the basic story is that last May, some people at Google began to notice that Bing was returning the same search results as Google for misspelled words, except that while Google was correcting the misspelled words, Bing was not.

In this case, the word in question was "torsoraphy," which Google corrected to "tarsorrhaphy"—hardly a common word. Searching for "torsoraphy" on Bing would return the same results as Google but wouldn’t correct the word.

So Google set a trap.

The Honeypot

Google connected a bunch of gibberish words to ordinary search results for mundane web pages and added all the newly-matched terms to its algorithm. For instance, while searching for "mbzrxpgjys" on Google would normally return nothing, Google rigged it to return http://www.rim.com (the company that makes BlackBerry phones).

mbzrxpgjys-Google-Search-500x125

And guess what happened? Within a couple weeks, a search for "mbzrxpgjys" on Bing would return the http://www.rim.com website, too.

mbzrxpgjys-Bing-500x129

Google Calls Microsoft Out

Yesterday, Google posted an article on its blog titled "Microsoft’s Bing uses Google search results—and denies it" which basically details the same story mentioned above but finishes with the following:

"So to all the users out there looking for the most authentic, relevant search results, we encourage you to come directly to Google. And to those who have asked what we want out of all this, the answer is simple: we’d like for this practice to stop."

There are other gems in the post as well, like "Bing results increasingly look like an incomplete, stale version of Google results—a cheap imitation."

And the timing of everything is pretty smirk-inducing as well (unless you’re Microsoft)—all this information dropped right before a big Bing-sponsored search summit called Farsight kicked off.

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