Feb 052011

Microsoft hit back at Google Wednesday over accusations that it stole Google search results for its Bing search engine, accusing Google of engaging in a honeypot attack and going after Bing because it was worried about its growth.

“In simple terms, Google’s ‘experiment’ was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as ‘click fraud,'” Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division, wrote in a blog post. “That’s right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the Web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results.”

“We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop,” he continued.

Mehdi insisted that Google’s investigation did not uncover anything that the industry didn’t already know. “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,” he wrote.

On Tuesday, Search Engine Land published a story that said Bing was copying search results from Google. Google later confirmed this, and said it had conducted a test to prove its suspicions. Specifically, Google took a phrase that the average Google user was unlikely to search – like “mbzrxpgjys” – and manually paired it with an unlikely search result, like the homepage for Research in Motion. These dummy search results were added to Google on December 17 and by December 31, about 9 of the 100 tests added to Google were showing up on Bing, which Google said proved its point.

Google said Microsoft was collecting data via Suggested Sites, which suggests similar Web sites you might want to visit, and the Bing toolbar, which has a default setting to collects information.

At a Bing-sponsored search event that day, Harry Shum, corporate vice president of search product development at Microsoft, said that “it’s not like we actually copy anything; it’s really that we learn from the customers, who opt-in to share the data with us.”

Mehdi suggested that Google was getting worried about Bing’s progress.

“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,” he wrote. “Then a short time later, here come the honeypot attacks. Is the timing purely coincidence?”

In a Tuesday blog post, Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, said “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.”

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