Uncategorized - 01 February 2011
Author: Doug Simmons

c2You remember your junior high Latin teacher whom you’d talk trash about but deep down you admired and tried to emulate, even dressing like her in private, and because her office door was unlocked you were able to steal the answers to upcoming tests until one day she got suspicious, planted a test answer sheet with a fake array of answers which you subsequently grab and use on a test in order to secure proof of your dishonesty before calling you out on it in front of the whole class and when she did that you were so embarrassed that you didn’t try to deny it?Oh but you’re really going to deny having that exact memory? C’mon.

Well that is precisely and metaphorically what’s going down between Google and Bing right now. Google’s the Latin teacher, you’re Bing (no offense, just for the sake of the metaphor), your c1trash talk is the jabs you take at Google in your commercials, your admiration and emulation of the teacher is your history replete of “embracing and extending” Google’s products and services, her office is google.com, the test answer sheet is the backend side of Google, the synthetic answer sheet is Google’s honeypot sting operation, —

Ahh damnit I just pulled up another source on this which used my high school analogy right up top, though not nearly as well so I’ll leave mine in. That was a coincidence, but it’s ironic (?) nonetheless as I’m writing about Bing lifting Google’s work. Oh well, hopefully no one rhymed Bing with sting yet. Guess I might as well bing it, shorter url than google, same results but more sizzle (aka clutter)…

c5If you want a more detailed breakdown of what Google did in order to decide for yourself how conclusive it is, and again Bing didn’t deny it but instead tried to spin it not to sound so bad, check out searchengineland. Google tipped searchengineland off last year about red flags, probable cause to turn this into a whole thing. Google’s Amit Singhal, maybe one of the very few who has access to the most coveted algorithm ever, expressed that he’s “got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm” but he draws the line at what Bing did, copying, which in this man’s book ain’t copacetic. Not Microsoft’s finest hour.

c4Though he’s not using language like “illegal” and “sue the bastards,” possibly because what Microsoft did and may still be doing might not be illegal (or worth pursuing further), but to Google it may be a point of pride to expose this. Or the timing could have something to do with some search engine event Microsoft’s got planned today in Frisco. Danny Sullivan, author to the searchengineland post, was invited both by Bing and Google to come to the event, so the plot may thicken further.

Microsoft’s Bing director had things like this to say to searchengineland: “This ‘Google experiment’ seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate” what “clickstream data” they receive from their Bing Toolbar and Suggested Sites (did you know that they use that to collect your surfing data?), as if that either made any sense let alone mitigated their actions.

Anyway, you call them dishonest sonofabitches, cockaroaches and jive turkeys or perhaps jive ass hussies all you want, but you can’t deny that Microsoft knows how to enhance Google’s Street View like it’s nobody’s business (except Google’s, technically).

Doug Simmons, via searchengineland obviously









About Author

Biographical info.. hmm. I have a history of not being able to strike the balance between what is "safe" to put into these forms and what is, in my mind at least, funny. Can't do it.

(35) Readers Comments

  1. Microsoft has cleared up this misudnerstanding “We do not copy Google’s results.” (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-we-do-not-copy-googles-results/8557)
    Well if that’s what they say, that’s good enough for me…move on, nothing to see here

  2. Oh great thanks ZDNet and Microsoft for clearing it all up.

    Too bad their search director didn’t get the memo that “we’re just going to flat-out deny this one” and instead explained to this search engine blog that the apparent copying was merely an inadvertent byproduct of things like their Suggested Sites which says right in the EULA that it may do exactly this and Google’s trying to make it look like some big conspiracy to rip them off and contort how that sounds to try to turn this into a big thing with their elaborate ruse.

    By the way, here’s what made Google suspicious in the first place. When queries were made for things that were misspelled and Google did the Did you mean thing and then gets a subsequent query with the correct spelling, when that specific incorrect spelling was binged a few weeks later, Bing returned the search results directly without any kind of Did you mean. But if you make any other variant of the misspelled word on Bing you do get the Did you mean. Like this:

    Give that a try yourself if you want, you’ll see the same, but then modify how the word is misspelled on Bing and you’ll see how it is handled differently. That’s just how it started, not the definitively damning synthetic search result sting.

    In other words they’ve been grooming Bing’s accuracy, and this first became apparent in May and since then increasingly apparent not just with what probably struck you right there as minutia but with general search returns increasingly, substantially, starting to match Google’s, and the probably legal and EULA-kosher method they’ve been hitching a free ride off the Google engineers (the spelling guys were especially miffed) is, according to Google and this sounds about right to me, using IE’s Suggest Sites and/or their toolbar. Their essentially using people who use IE as a proxy to study Google extensively and use that information to modify Bing and it’s plain as day that they’ve been doing that.

    They may not have sat down for a while, googling things and copying and pasting the returns, but they enabled Bing to adapt by plugging it into to information relayed to Microsoft by people using Google. It’s too complicated an accusation for Microsoft to drop everything to do damage control over. It’s tl;dr.

    To compare it to horse betting, Microsoft is denying having certain horses injected with steroids or tranquilizers in order to bet more profitably which they can technically deny because rather than juicing up certain horses and other horses down themselves they paid people to work with the various horses to report back to Microsoft which horses were injected by other people before each race and modify their betting accordingly.

    Either way it’s cheating. And cheating ain’t cool, it’s chilly; and chilly ain’t never been cool.

  3. Damn, you’re getting desperate if you fell for this PR stunt.

  4. A PR stunt in the making since May with this event in mind? Or might there be some substance to it?

  5. Index the indexer. Like everyone on that site was saying, you really think Google isn’t doing this with Yahoo and Twitter?

  6. I think what the chatter is, is that the Bing searchbar is listening to what goes in and out of the browser. if that’s Google, that’s Google. In other words, it’s jsut sniffing what crosses it regardless of what it is. And that’s how the data gets to Bing. So it’s not that the Google results are being filtered by Bing but rather that the Google results hit Bing through the fact that people are searching using the toolbar.

  7. @DavidK: I think anyone without a pro-Google slant realizes that.

  8. Along with Microsoft’s Bing director. It’s even in the privacy statement of Suggested Sites and the Bing Bar, reserving the right to do what would enable them to do exactly this. Microsoft is denying copying or indexing the indexer or whatever it is you think this is about, but the accusation is cheating, hitching a free ride to what Google engineers figured out (it’s not as easy as you might think to make an effective search engine).

    It may not be illegal but how is this defensible? Because the accusation is too complicated to explain to most people (you for example)? If you were one of these engineers at Google wouldn’t you be a little bummed out by this discovery and want to call them out on it?

    This thorn in their side that they’ve been monitoring since May, giving heads ups quietly to third parties to check and corroborate themselves, eventually setting up a trap … you think they just made it all up, do you think what Microsoft has been doing is perfectly cool and legit? What if this were turned around, would you tell me that you’d be buying Microsoft’s accusations or Google’s denial?

  9. So you’re all saying that everybody is caching my data and watching me do activities of varying cleanliness about the internet!!! You must be mistaken. On a more serious note who the hell cares? Use one or the other and don’t install toolbars. If you’re installing toolbars you shouldn’t have the privilege and most likely don’t have the mental fortitude to be using such a complex piece of machinery.

  10. @Matt Anderson: every time I try to launch the Bing Bar on IE8 it says ‘updating’ and never does and just sits there…and I’m trying to help them.
    oh shit it just loaded…let me go search for the corners oft he web now

  11. David K: Tweets much appreciated, but Frank Shaw, on whose bio/profile page you may download either 72 or 300dpi JPGs of his various headshots, is in PR. You got anything from an engineer?

  12. Matt: For starters, the guys being ripped off care:

    It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work. I don’t know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.

    I believe the man is speaking from the heart, that this is about work to him, very valuable intellectual property (how to handle search queries most effectively — Google’s bread and butter) and not vilifying Microsoft for the hell of it.

    As for opting out or not opting into such things, how could anyone reading that Microsoft may use URL data you spit back to improve your whatever including search terms and extend that to reading that Microsoft may automatically study your Google experiences in order to steadily tune Bing accordingly. You don’t see that, nor do you probably even read the EULA/privacy thing, and when an IE user sees something new like Suggested Sites, sounds pretty benign, a why-not affirmative click. But even if they did get informed consent from those using IE that they’d be participating in this anywhere including and especially when on Google, that doesn’t make it right.

    Presuming this is true, do you think it’s an accident that Google’s been tweaking itself in response to these “signals” from people on Google googling things and clicking and misspelling and searching for very obscure things and whatever, an accident that the data somehow has been flowing into Bing in a manner that Bing, like Skynet, uses the data, or did someone have to go out of their way to make that work?

  13. @Doug Simmons: Like DavidK said, they aren’t just doing it for Google. Google just want everyone to think it’s about them. And wasn’t it Google that was mad at Facebook for not sharing data? Google just got outsmarted and want to draw attention away from their addiction to “coffee”.

  14. Wait a minute, you call Bing Skynet while defending Google? What does that make Google? WalMart?

  15. Here’s some Microsoft PR responses to Google: http://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-google-search-results-2011-2

  16. Index the indexer, twitter, this isn’t about crawling through Google’s websites. Of course Google googles anything without a robots.txt asking it not to and adhering to that standard diligently. Most people though, including us and I’m pretty sure Twitter too, want to be all over Google, so we go so far out of our way to make sure that happens well that there’s an industry out there, lots of people making livings doing nothing but giving out tips to get your site listed more prominently on Google. Here’s how complicated it is for me to take mobilitydigest.com off within a couple days:

    roòt@batteryboss.org: echo -e “User-agent\nDisallow: /” > robots.txt ; ncftp md
    ncftp /mobilitydigest > put robots.txt

    Seconds. For those who don’t know how to do that, create the User agent disallow in Dreamweaver, frontpage, ftp, toss it in the root directory, wait for recrawl, bye Google listing. Everyone’s entitled to do that and there are a million sites with instructions on how to do that including how to customize the file to allow certain things but not others. A funny thing to note while on the subject of robots.txt files, Rupert Murdoch, while going on and on about how Google News is stealing all of his content, .. here’s Fox News‘s robots file which goes out of its way to say hi to Google. Hi Google, here’s all our stuff, do come back again! Anyway.

    This isn’t about that. Google is not doing anything to enhance their search engine with their toolbar or Chrome with exception to clocking load times which may affect rankings (and they should) but nothing else, especially nothing like what Microsoft is doing. I don’t know if there’s any IP that is of more value, and took more work to develop, than those formulas are to Google and by studying a massive amount of user experiences on Google’s site Microsoft is effectively reverse engineering and implementing that asset.

    No one is better at returning the most relevant search queries as Google and no one is in the ballpark of brokering ads efficiently and effectively, in a manner that both the buyers and sellers win the most, than Google. Facebook? What, you heard they get a lot of traffic? Their ad clickthroughs, Google’s got them beat ten to one. It takes Facebook ten times as many ad impressions to produce a click as it takes Google. If anything, if you were Microsoft mining line-crossing data why would you even touch Facebook for search and ads? That would confound your data on how to handle data.

  17. How is it reverse engineering? First they stole the results, now they stole the algorithm? Google mines the internet and its users. Bing mines the internet, including Google, and its users. Sly? Yes. Stealing? No.

  18. I’m soo confused.. does mean Bing Binged Google? Or Did Bing Google Google…was Google Binged or Bing Googled?? or Bong the Witch is dead… ;-)

  19. I said it was effectively reverse engineering. The two approaches would create the same result.

    I don’t have any idea how many man hours are behind the mathematical machine of Google’s Search, but my guess is that not only is that figure big, I imagine the data is also proprietary information. Microsoft is very cleverly using it to mold their competing product to behave more and more like Google and Google caught them in the act. It’s flagrant cheating at best, not just taking a shortcut, not just a neat trick.

    Without that bundle of secret math that has been improving nonstop Google would never have gotten off the ground headed straight for the top had they not had the math or had they leeched from Yahoo or Altavista in the manner that Microsoft is doing.

    Sly yes, stealing no — would you at least identify it as cheating? Or is the only thing about what they’re doing to you that it’s kind of impressively cunning.

  20. Heh.. Not bad, Ed. Was beginning to take this thread too seriously.

  21. @Doug Simmons: No. If I was with Google I would be pissed. Pissed because I didn’t think of it first and because I couldn’t prevent it from happening to me.

  22. Yeah? Well, can you even conceptualize the way the hypothetical you at Google would defend Google from this? What, blocking everyone from visiting Google Search reporting IE as their user agent? Because that’s all I can come up with. How could this have been prevented, specifically/technically or metaphorically, anything you got.

    Assuming what Microsoft has been doing is legal, I suppose you could hire lobbyists and deploy them to DC, maybe get lucky.

  23. Google just dropped this.

    penny for your reaction

  24. @Doug Simmons: Not saying it was preventable, but I wouldn’t cry like a little bitch because I was outsmarted.

    This is no different than:

    100 people asking Person A, “tool”.
    Person A responds, “Doug Simmons”.
    101st person asks “tool” to Person B.
    Person B responds “Doug Simmons” because “tool” and “Doug Simmons” are trending.

  25. This is from a company that says identical code is not identical.

  26. Outsmarted? There is no practical technical way to stop this. Google caught wind of this and set up traps to catch them irrefutanly red handed. If anything, it was Microsoft who was outsmarted as I’m guessing that today is not a day they were hoping to have. Are you not understanding how Microsoft did this? You even regard this as an achievement on their part?

    So now that this has been handed off to the public with specificity, do you think Microsoft will say We did nothing wrong and btw Google steals from us or do you suppose their actions will be regarded with disdain widely enough that they’ll pull the plug on this activity regardless of however they may respond to these accusations?

    Microsoft should apologize.

  27. I’m actually going to just quote Techdirt.com :)
    here’s the title of their article: Google’s Childish Response To Microsoft Using Google To Increase Bing Relevance ……I agree with it so far!
    Here’s link http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110201/11022312911/googles-childish-response-to-microsoft-using-google-to-increase-bing-relevance.shtml

    and my favorite quotes from this article:
    “This seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Google’s search results are public and as an established player in the market, almost every comparison of alternative search engines, including Bing, compares it to Google. So, making use of Google data to improve its own rankings seems like a rather smart move.”
    “As if Google hasn’t copied the work of others in the past? The very basis for the original Page Rank was “copied” from Jon Kleinberg’s research and then built upon that work. It was not a direct copy, just as Microsoft’s search results are not a direct copy.”
    Last quote:
    “This seems like the latest in a series of indications that Google has moved past the innovation stage into the “protecting its turf” stage. That would be a shame.”

    I happen to agree with everything in this article…
    and I couldn’t have said it bettery myself…

  28. Google spends eight months doing their diligence that Microsoft was freeloading objectionably from their work and they, their search guys in particular, would prefer Microsoft knock it off and play straight. Lacking any other means to accomplish this, they post on their blog what no one can deny as being sufficiently damning evidence of what Microsoft had flat out denied doing earlier in the day leading to this main point:

    We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms out there—algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results from a competitor. 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.

    Where are you seeing this childishness?

    If Google is being childish or aything less than forthright, why would Microsoft have had denied it?

  29. Quick parenthetical follow-up: You think Bill Gates is wishing he had thought of stealing from Google like this? Or would he see it as a new company low and go back to handing out mosquito nets and vaccines?

  30. Simmons, you got your head so far up Eric’s backside you can only see things through his eyes.

  31. Now the story is that Google accused Microsoft of copying the results of your search engine and the experiment is very funny. Google chose several words for which there were no results on Google or Bing and created a false result page in Google.

    Then the data eye, settled BING bar in Internet Explorer 8 and 20 engineers were put to sea from their houses with their laptop for a period of time, and this is important, click the first link. Of course, we appreciate the time use of the talent that Google does.

    Of course, BING analyzes what users are looking for and where it goes, and takes it to improve their algorithm, as Google has done consistently, as we say in The Register.

    Microsoft does not deny it, or even recognize this behavior and accuse Google of click fraud and scam. And again this is not to spy on the user, and Google has always done, with the Google toolbar to the browser collected information on browsing habits forever, adding the package URLs intranets, private websites, etc. … Google Chrome does the same thing so I almost do not notice the interface. In some other browsers the Google toolbar embedded in the code came as sole provider of search and could not be changed. Of course, we must also talk about the system redirects for browsers not subject to the yoke …

    However, the funniest of the whole thing is that its results page is a webpage that is being indexed … fuck them! To them, they have indexed the News that teams of editors have created and selected for Google News, which books have been scanned and indexed to do business with them, that index mails from clients to place ads that have indexed the WiFis without permission, that place advertising on copyrighted content on YouTube, and so on.

    As stated by Cade Metz at The Register … “There’s Some irony at play here.” The two are fighting for something that the two are doing: spying on the user. If you have questions, please do not miss the talk of Moxie BlalckHat Marlinspike in 2010.

    PS: If anyone has doubts, not to copy, it is spying, since not all results secopian but only where you click that, in Google parlance, that would be indexed }:)).

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  32. @Doug Simmons:
    Doug,
    You can’t seem to make up your mibnd if this is legal, unethical, or illegal. Pick one. I’ve never heard of reverse engineering being illegal. Niether of these giants are innovating. They both regergitate government funded research projects. I feel sooooo sorry for Google and their Engineers.

  33. It’s cheating, it’s unusually unethical and I’m pretty sure there’s no precedent on the books about this nor would I know what formal complaint or which law would be used to try to put an end to this legally. Doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen, but despite how Microsoft is responding, I have a feeling this will quietly stop and the Google engineer’s reasonable request will be honored.

    That is unless this engineer and the others didn’t do anything but puke up what the government already produced (first time I heard anyone say that). Thank you for capitalizing the E in engineers, give these Gods men the respect they earned.

  34. Pingback: The Bing Sting | Android And Gadget News

  35. Pingback: Microsoft Reverts to Original Categorical Denial over Google Accusation: Some Suit Accuses Google of Fraud and IP Theft, Likens Google to Spammers, Suggests Bing Search Core Is and Was Already Superior to Google Which Scared Google into this Nonsense; Acc