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Google Sting Exposes "Copying" by Bing

 3:16 pm on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google has run a sting operation that it says proves Bing has been watching what people search for on Google, the sites they select from Google’s results, then uses that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. Bing doesn’t deny this.

As a result of the apparent monitoring, Bing’s relevancy is potentially improving (or getting worse) on the back of Google’s own work. Google likens it to the digital equivalent of Bing leaning over during an exam and copying off of Google’s test. [searchengineland.com...]



 7:53 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is a great PR spin by Google though

PR spin where? I have heard nothing about this outside of this forum. No real PR to be gained from this I am afraid.


 8:19 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

There's plenty of PR spin going on. The first Google News result for "bing copying" was a cluster of 700+ articles. This story has gone viral and will eventually get at least a mention just about everywhere.

The way Google collected the data and then "leaked" it shows that PR was a key consideration. Presenting Bing's actions as "copying" vs. "enhancing their results by monitoring the behavior of our users" is spin at its most effective.


 8:26 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have read articles on Techcrunch, BBC.com and the NY Times website about this. It was also mentioned on CNBC this morning. This is definitely embarrassing for Bing.

Danny Sullivan is getting some high quality and well deserved links from this.


 8:31 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Via Bing: Bing sets the record straight on recent accusations [binged.it...]


 9:15 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Give me a break. How much have both of these companies lifted from each other and others?

- Bing copies Google search engine circa 2003
- Google copies AdWords from Overture and settles lawsuit
- Google copies Bing’s search layout to a T
- Google copies Bing’s image layout to a T
- Bing copies Google’s search results
- Google copies MS Pubcenter Beta's gui and makes the new AdSense beta gui

I mean we can go on and on here.

I think this is part of the overhaul at the plex, trying to get that old sympathetic feeling when Google was launched that they are little linux geeks at Google vs. the big bad MS. Both of these companies will continue to ripoff each other and crush everything else.

Who cares?


 9:18 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Interesting link, Thanks rustybrick.

Is there an unfair advantage when IE8 is on all computers, and this anonymous click data is captured?

Why does Google make this big PR mess instead of filing a lawsuit outright?


 12:45 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is such a tricky and underhanded move that it actually scares me. Google has huge power over us, and at this point it's only growing. They banked on the flawed logic of the masses and it appears to be working. And as webmasters, I like to think we're in the upper percentage of intelligence and critical thinking skills. Especially when it comes to web business related topics. But even still, I keep seeing posts where people really believe that Bing is outright copying search results. We're the ones most likely to understand this situation, and a lot of us are failing to do so. Imagine the perception of the general population if they were to hear about this. Why even try Bing if all they do is copy Google results?

From an engineer or developer's standpoint it's easy to sit back and laugh, because the accusation is ridiculous. Especially based on the evidence they presented. Which is why I think the Bing staff didn't seem to take this as seriously at first. But what percentage of the general public is really going to look into the facts? And even if they did, how many would understand? It's a really tricky situation for Bing.

So now we have a company with all our private information, who we all trust to answer all our questions, dabbling in the art of bending the truth for their own gain.


 6:55 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google and Matt are like true net bullies. They think they control and run the web. Perhaps someone was bullied during their school days and is now hateful? Explains why he probably went on a diet recently.

Look at all the recent Google hostilities against other companies. (Google complaining to EU about Microsoft IE, Bing copying them etc).

Why don't they talk about Google and their hostility against webmasters? Most search engines don't even allow you to report "suspicious" sites. This just creates tension and hostility amongst competitors by allowing site owners to report each other. I spoke to a guy who penalized his competitor by launching black hat techniques on his competitors domain, reported the site, 6 months later his competitor was penalized.

Give me the Microsoft Bing team over the G team anyday.


 7:58 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Guessing that Internet Explorer was somehow lifting Google data from users and sending it back to Bing, Mountain View launched its "sting operation". The company set up 100 faux search results pages for queries that most users were unlikely to try. Initially, these results were completely different from Microsoft's results for the same queries.

Mountain View engineers then ran these queries on Google's search engine using Internet Explorer, with Microsoft's Suggested Sites tool and the Bing Toolbar turned on, and they were instructed to always click on the top result. The test began in mid-December, and by the end of the month, Microsoft's results for those same queries had changed – at least a little. Changes appeared on less than 10 of Google's 100 manual queries.

Some "sting"... create bogus pages/results then feed them into IE with the toolbar installed... what kind of results does one expect? Hey, M$ create 100 faux pages and load Chrome and automate inquires and see what Google does!

Mutter mutter... "Move along, nothing to see here..."


 8:57 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is absolute nonsense. Do any of you really think that Google has earned the right to complain about anyone copying anything?


Google should be keeping a low profile because if spin is what this is about they could be very vulnerable to spin attacks.


 12:40 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am running a poll, not sure if I should link to it, but over 500 responses.

50% say Bing looks worse
30% say Google looks worse

I don't think any company won here.


 2:21 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Both would eat their young- However, I haven't used team Goo's product in nearly a year and this changes nothing.


 2:45 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been reading detailed posts on this whole fiasco. From the looks of it, I'd say it was a smear campaign on Google's part. I've been out reading Googler comments this morning and they are throwing that "Bing copied our results" crap all over the place. Thing is, it appears that Bing didn't copy anything but used Bing Toolbar clickstream data from the Googlers performing the Sting.

I wonder when the litigation route will be taken by Bing.


 3:57 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I find the spin that has been put on this is a story in itself.

Clever manipulation of 'the press.'

Don't tell me Google doesn't do that with whatever tools it has at its disposal.

What does it do with the data from Chrome when you search on Bing?


 3:57 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

This interview with MS makes things clearer: [content.usatoday.com...]


 4:12 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been reading detailed posts on this whole fiasco. From the looks of it, I'd say it was a smear campaign on Google's part.

Of course it was, that conference was going to ask questions about the spam in Google so they had to do something to take the attention off of them. In that respect they succeeded.

This is such a non issue I can't believe people are still debating it.

Can't wait to see what MS does to put Google in the crosshairs of the press.


 6:22 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

"This is absolute nonsense. Do any of you really think that Google has earned the right to complain about anyone copying anything?"


This is one post which to me anyway lays waste to google. If only people would listen.

But they wont.


 8:37 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is there any proof that Bing targeted google specifically? Or if a user goes to 'any' site (with an obvious search parameter like ?q=something) and searches something, then ends up at a certain url will Bing use that data as well?


 9:40 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

i think google are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. if you read the article, then the search term they set up was basically just a nonsense word which doesn't exist. i wouldn't be surprised if no one in the world had ever searched for that term before. so the only data that bing could get for it was from one place -- google. if there had been more than one place then they would have fed that data into their algo and got a different set of results.

its a bit like leaving a water bottle in the middle of the desert, and then complaining when someone uses it.


 3:15 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

OK, I figured out a simile that explains why I don't think Microsoft is doing anything particularly wrong (still can't believe I am defending M$... how the world changes!)

Imagine you run a shoe store. People start coming in asking for a really narrow white shoe. You think its strange, but after a few have done it, you get them in stock.
And none sell.
Because they weren't real customers, they were people sent in by the competition to test how you react.
(At which you, the shoe shop owner, says 'WTF?')

Its not a perfect simile, because 'coming into the store' isn't quite what the Google Engineers sent off to feed disinformation to M$ were doing, but I think it makes the point.
Microsoft didn't scrape Google results, they used data from their toolbars which - this is important - was clearly what they said in their terms of service they would do.
Making use of visitor data isn't particularly white hat, but their terms did say they were doing it.


 3:24 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can understand why Google is upset. I would imagine that at some point Google also peeked at their competition.


 5:06 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

There were no other signals, nothing else to look up. They artificially created this association, and there was nothing else we could use to figure out what the user was asking for. So we pulled that one signal, which was the faked one from Google.


 3:52 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

There is another issue to consider... If SERP clicks from a browser or toolbar (or even Google Analytics?) help determine future serps...doesn't this open up a huge exploit for SEO? Should I be downloading the IE toolbar and spam clicking my site in the serps to rank well in bing? People here are suggesting chrome and/or google analytics plays the same game...should I be spam clicking (or having a bot spam click) my serps for important keywords with these as well?


 4:06 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

In theory you're right, but the click tracking is "1 of 1000" weights on a larger algorithm. In this specific case, the search terms were made up and there were no results whatsoever, which let Google manipulate the rankings on Bing so easily.


 4:22 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Cutts disagrees that it is 1 in 1000 and he has access to probably more information on this then he is releasing at this time. Doesn't make sense that bing would go to this effort just to help out obscure long tail and rare keyword results...

Bing is in an awkward position...if they admit this is more important, they open themselves up to serious exploiting from black hatters (won't take long for the IE toolbar and it's periodic reports to the MS mothership to be reverse engineered into an app that will be distributed and result in manipulated bing results). That or maybe google could perhaps do something similar and perhaps jam bing with massive bogus IE8 toolbar reports.


 4:34 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

they open themselves up to serious exploiting from black hatters.

I do believe clickstream data has been exploited at levels many of us don't know about. And, it is has been happening for a very long time - at least since Toolbars were introduced. ;)


 4:54 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Another question to ask is if google and bing are using ISP clickstream data to calc SERPs. ISP's are certainly selling it (at about 5 dollars a user a month) with little regards for privacy...question is who is buying? If it is MS/bing that could be a bigger issue than their ninja toolbar.


 5:02 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Personally (like Rlilly) I find Microsoft's explanation to be much more plausible.


 6:09 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

So if there was an artificial insertion, and there is nothing on that page that relates to the search term (ie: used in text on page, meta title, discriptions, anchor text, IBL anchor text) and Bing returns the exact same result as google, how is that NOT poaching? Microsoft just admitted, that if they don't have any relevant results, they will pull results from Google.
I thought Bing was supposed to be a search engine. I'm curious as to whether these results showed up on the powered by bing yahoo results.


 6:38 pm on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm curious though, are the people that are excited (albeit hesitant) that Google is attempting to purge the index of scraped content (which has been discussed here at WebmasterWorld quite often) the same people that see no wrong with Bing scrapping Google's results?

I really don't see any correlation. Bing is using Google's SERPs as data, no more different then someone using Wikipedia as a data source for a research paper. No citation is needed if no direct quote is used.

Scraped content is akin to someone printing out a wikipedia page as if it was their own report.

What Bing did is not illegal, it's not unethical, and the reaction is Google being a big baby.

(Seriously tho, Google harvests the worlds data to use for it's own profit, but as soon as someone does it to them, they throw a hissy fit. Imagine if a conglomerate of webmasters sued Google for "cheating" for analyzing their webpages in order to establish algorithmic relevance, what reasoning would there be?)


 9:53 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

If the only signal Bing has for a query is WWGD (What would Google Do?), then Bing is clearly copying Google for that query.

If there are multiple signals, including Google, and Bing combines them in a value-added way, then it is not copying, it is innovating.

This 95 message thread spans 4 pages: < < 95 ( 1 2 [3] 4 > >
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