So, Google is accusing Bing of stealing its search results, which is a pretty big accusation, and boils down to stealing the very important intellectual property of Google.
Google has gone so far as to write a blog post about why they think this, and how they can prove it.
The blog outlines how Google noticed that URLs from Google search results were later appearing in Bing, for a variety of queries. In Google’s opinion, the statistical likeliness of Google’s top search result appearing at the top of Bing’s results for the wide variety of searches they tested, was too much of a coincidence.
So they created ‘synthetic’ queries, ones which you wouldn’t expect anyone to type (they give the example of hiybbprqag, and planted a unique web page at the top of the results, which were nothing to do with the actual query.
For more information about the experiment, you can visit the Google blog post, but the bottom line is, that after a couple of weeks of the synthetic queries being in place, Bing was returning the same unrelated sites for those synthetic queries. Google suspects this is related to the IE 8 Suggested sites feature or the Bing Toolbar, though they aren’t ruling out other means.
The director of Bing, Stefan Weitz, responded by saying that they use multiple signals in ranking search results, including opt-in programs like the Bing Toolbar.
An online response by Corporate VP of Bing, Harry Shum, stated that Bing takes into account more than 1,000 factors, when ranking sites, making their click stream data from their toolbar users, a very small contributor (but not denying that it is a contributor)
It could be considered quite clever – tracking what people are actually selecting from search results, and using that as a favourable signal for their ranking relevance. But at the same time, you can see why Google wouldn’t be happy about it. They put in all the work, research and expense to create the search results, and Bing benefits from it.
It is unfortunate timing for Bing. The experiment was apparently concluded on 31 December, but the news only released yesterday, 1 February, the same day as a big search event they initiated and hosted, Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box, to talk about the future of search.
Side note – Interesting that they say over 1,000 factors go into ranking sites in Bing, whereas it is anecdotally said that Google’s ranking factors are only over 200.