Google has weathered criticism in the past that it has copied some features of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, like background images. Now it has turned the tables, alleging that Bing copies something much more important: search results. Bing doesn’t deny this.

Danny Sullivan, head of the blog Search Engine Land, wrote Tuesday about “a sting operation” by Google that the company says proves that Bing watches Google’s search results to improve its own.

Hey, Does This Seem Odd To You?

Around late May of last year, Google began noticing that Bing seemed to be doing exceptionally well at returning the same sites that Google would list, when someone would enter unusual misspellings.

For example, consider a search for torsoraphy, which causes Google to return this:

In the example above, Google’s searched for the correct spelling — tarsorrhaphy — even though torsoraphy was entered. Notice the top listing for the corrected spelling is a page about the medical procedure at Wikipedia.
Over at Bing, the misspelling is NOT corrected — but somehow, Bing manages to list the same Wikipedia page at the top of its results as Google does for its corrected spelling results:

Got it? Despite the word being misspelled — and the misspelling not being corrected — Bing still manages to get the right page from Wikipedia at the top of its results, one of four total pages it finds from across the web. How did it do that?

Google says it suspects Microsoft is doing this by using Internet Explorer 8 and the Bing toolbar, both of which send user data to Microsoft, to watch how people use Google.

Google went into detective mode – To Sting A Bing

It invented about 100 gibberish search queries, like “hiybbprqag,” and matched them with results that had nothing to do with the query, like a theater seating chart. Mr. Singhal likened these queries to “the search engine equivalent of marked bills in a bank.”

Then it asked 20 of its engineers to install Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 with the Bing toolbar, search for the rigged words and click on the made-up results. Sure enough, Bing soon started pointing people to the nonsensical search results for seven to nine of the 100 queries.

The result? “Some Bing results increasingly look like an incomplete, stale version of Google results — a cheap imitation,” Mr. Singhal wrote.

BING – Bing Is Now Google

The tussle is the latest in an ongoing battle between Google and Microsoft on many fronts. In search, Google has prided itself most on the relevance of its search results — which no doubt contributes to its 67 percent search market share. So it is particularly sensitive for Google that Bing, in some cases, mimics its top results.

Mr. Sullivan wryly noted that when Bing started in 2009, people joked that it stood for “Because It’s Not Google,” and wrote that now it may as well stand for “Bing Is Now Google.” 😆

Credits: Danny Sullivan

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