Google accuses Microsoft of copying its search results

Google has accused Microsoft of copying its search results, saying the company is “cheating” in its development of Bing.


The search giant has released data which it says demonstrates that some of Bing’s search results are a direct copy of Google’s.

It says it conducted a sting operation after the comparison of certain keyword searches drew very similar results.

Google created 100 different search queries using keywords unlikely to ever be typed by a user (often a random combination of letters), and tailored the results to make a completely unrelated link appear at the top of the results. It then tried the same queries on Bing, only to find that within a few weeks the same unrelated results started appearing for a number of them. Google says this could only happen if Microsoft was replicating Google’s results.

The company said it suspects Microsoft of basing the results on data retrieved from people using Internet Explorer 8 and the Bing toolbar.

Speaking on the Google blog, Google Fellow Amit Singhal said it made Bing results look like a “cheap imitation” of Google’s.

“At Google we strongly believe in innovation and are proud of our search quality,” he said. “We’ve invested thousands of person-years into developing our search algorithms because we want our users to get the right answer every time they search, and that’s not easy.”

He added that Google wants competition in the market, but only if it’s genuinely challenging existing models.

“We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms built on core innovation, not on recycled search results from a competitor,” Singhal said. “So to all 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.”

Microsoft’s response has not been to rebuke the claims but to say that it does use external data on top of its own bespoke algorithms.


Speaking to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, said, “As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry we’re not going to go deep and detailed into how we do it.

“Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query,” Weitz said. “Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This Google experiment seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.”

Since its launch in summer 2009, Bing has gradually eaten away at Google’s dominant market share. At the start of the year it kicked off a viral ad campaign featuring comedian Kayvan Novak, star of Channel 4’s Fonejacker and Facejacker.

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