Microsoft continues its counterattack against Google after Google embarrassed it yesterday, making it look like Microsoft’s Bing search engine was copying Google’s search results.
In blog post called “Setting the record straight,” Microsoft Bing exec Yusuf Mehdi accuses Google of “click fraud” to trick Microsoft, and insists, “We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period.”
Mehdi then launches into jargon about “click stream data” and “honeypots.”
But here’s the problem: Mehdi is NOT doing a good job setting the record straight.
The screenshots we saw on Search Engine Land show that Bing IS copying Google. Microsoft does not seem to be accusing Search Engine Land or Google of fabricating these screenshots.
Microsoft seems to be saying, “because Google tricked us into copying Google, it doesn’t count as copying Google.”
But the truth is that even if Google did trick Microsoft into copying the Google results, it still happened. That was the whole point of Google’s experiment!
If Microsoft wants its statement — “we do not copy results from any of our competitors” — to stand up, then it must not be able to be tricked by Google experiments.
Or if Microsoft wants to stand up and say “Yes, we copy Google’s search results sometimes, because our users find them useful, and we track what our users click on,” that’s totally cool. (It’s a smart strategy!)
But instead, Microsoft is choosing to throw dirt. Hard to see how this helps.
Here’s Mehdi’s post:
Setting the record straight
I was unable to attend the Farsight conference yesterday but watched events unfold online and wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts and make sure everyone is clear about a few things.
It was interesting to watch the level of protest and feigned outrage from Google. One wonders what brought them to a place where they would level these kinds of accusations.
Before we explore that, let me clear up a few things once and for all.
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.
We do look at anonymous click stream data as one of more than a thousand inputs into our ranking algorithm. We learn from our customers as they traverse the web, a common practice in helping to improve a wide array of online services. We have been clear about this for a couple of years (see Directions on Microsoft report, June 15, 2009).
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.
Now let’s move the conversation to what might really be going on behind the scenes.
Bing was launched nearly two years ago to break new ground and help move the search industry in new directions. We have brought a number of things to market that we are very proud of — our daily home page photos, infinite scroll in image search, great travel and shopping experiences, a new and more useful visual approach to search, and partnerships with key leaders like Facebook and Twitter. If you are keeping tabs, you will notice Google has “copied” a few of these. Whether they have done it well we leave to customers. But more importantly, we take no issue and are glad we could help move the industry to adopt some good ideas.
At the same time, we have been making steady, quiet progress on core search relevance. 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?
Clearly that’s a question that will continue in heated debate as long as there is a search industry. Here at Bing we will continue to focus on our customers, and try to provide some great innovation for consumers and the industry.
Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Services Division
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