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

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Google Appears at Microsoft’s Bing Event

Despite the timing of all this information’s release, Google’s own Matt Cutts was scheduled to appear on a panel at the Bing-sponsored event, Farsight, mentioned earlier. Also on the panel: Microsoft’s Harry Shum, the same guy that wrote Microsoft’s response to Google on Bing’s blog.

CNET recounts that Cutts and Shum effectively derailed the panel in the interest of taking shots at one another, with Shum accusing Google of making "a lot of money from spam and low-quality content monetized by AdSense ads." The same article says that before the panel started, Google’s Cutts "made the rounds at the conference center… with a laptop open to four screenshots comparing the fake queries Google constructed and the results page with the same queries on Bing."

So no love lost, in other words.

Microsoft Responds Again

In another post on Bing’s blog today, Microsoft SVP of online services Yusuf Mehdi states bluntly:

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. 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."

He then defends Microsoft’s use of "anonymous click stream data" like the stuff gathered from the Suggested Sites feature and Bing toolbar as "one of more than a thousand inputs" that go into Bing’s search algorithm.

Okay, case closed. Time to shake hands and go home for dinner, right?

Uh oh, there’s more:

"Google engaged in a ‘honeypot’ attack to trick Bing. In simple terms, Google’s ‘experiment’ was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as ‘click fraud.’ That’s right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results.  What does all this cloak and dagger click fraud prove? Nothing anyone in the industry doesn’t already know. As we have said before and again in this post, we use click stream optionally provided by consumers in an anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site might make sense to be in our index."

Followed by:

"In October 2010 we released a series of big, noticeable improvements to Bing’s relevance. So big and noticeable that we are told Google took notice and began to worry. Then a short time later, here come the honeypot attacks. Is the timing purely coincidence? Are industry discussions about search quality to be ignored? Is this simply a response to the fact that some people in the industry are beginning to ask whether Bing is as good or in some cases better than Google on core web relevance?"

Google has yet to respond but something tells me we may be due for at least a couple more volleys seeing that the rhetoric has now escalated to include some more forceful language. I’ll update this post as things develop.

UPDATE: Matt Cutts’ (of Google) blog post (2/3/11)

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