Is Bing copying Google’s results?

According to this Google Blog post, “Bing is using Google web search results”. Essentially, what is happening is that Microsoft is tracking what their users search for, and what links they subsequently click.  So if you have the Bing Toolbar installed and search using Google, the result you click on will be logged by Bing, which will add it to their own results.  Google are not happy that their search results are being used in this way.

The effects are most noticable at the fringes, in rare or misspelled search phrases, where Google’s excellent results are easily seen on Bing.  Microsoft, for their part, responded pretty clearly:

We do not copy Google’s results

Strangely, given everything mentioned above, I think that this is true.  (Also, it’s clever obfuscation by Microsoft, as Google definitely does copy websites – it provides a cache of its  latest crawl in the results – which has caused trouble in the past.)

Bing collects data from its users; it is those users who are collecting the data from Google (and presumably other search engines, both global and site-specific) and passing it on. 

This is pretty straightforward, really; Bing can see that a user asks a question and gets a response, so it remembers that response for other users who have the same question.  It would be interesting to discover how much Bing cares who provides the response (e.g. is it prioritising results from Google?) but in theory any company could run the experiment that Google ran to see whether their own internal search results are being stored and returned by Bing in the same way.

So if Bing is not ‘copying’, is it ‘using’?  Well yes, albeit in a second-hand way.  But is this any worse than Google ‘using’ the content of your site to sell advertising in its search lisings?  Personally, I don’t think so.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 Technology

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