Yesterday Google kicked off the mother of all pissing contests by saying MS is copying their search results. You might as well have told them that santa doesn’t exist. I read google’s post and mulled it over and frankly it makes a lot of sense. Today the “bing team” (whoever that is) posted the rebuttal by “Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Services Division”. I read that and… I don’t think it adds up.
So Yusuf claim is that Google engaged in click fraud. The problem here is you have to then believe that Bing is either so badly tuned it relies on the users to direct it to relevant results (which are impossible to assess before actually visiting the page) or you have to buy into the idea that bing uses google as the last ditch.
I think the explaination is somewhere in the middle. I think both sides have points. And I really think that I’m going to stick with google.
Google is smart. If bing were really querying google, google would have noticed. Maybe they don’t read their referral log, but surely on web analytics someone would have noticed a metric ton of queries coming from somewhere inside microsoft. I believe MS when they say they aren’t querying google. But this also means there’s a much bigger problem with Bing. Yusuf also says google engaged in click fraud. This is only click fraud by some weird definition of click fraud where the pages don’t actually link to each other. Conventional, or traditional click fraud requires trusted pages to link to each other to improve their rank, then the users click around each page going to each others page to improve the search results. What google did was create what basically amounted to an orphan, a page no-one would ever link to nor link from, and click on it 100 times, and they did it within google.
Does bing copy search results? Not in the sense that they query google for each question you ask. However what bing does watch is what you’re typing and what you click on. This is the only possible explanation for how they got the google search results. Now, google said they got here by installing Windows, installing IE8 and accepting the defaults (which would include the bing bar). Lets assume that someone took the time to read the end user license agreement (EULA). What’s the text of this? In the privacy section it says:
Suggested Sites is an online experience designed to show you which websites you visit most, and to provide you with suggestions of other websites you might be interested in visiting. When you turn on Suggested Sites, your web browsing history is automatically and periodically sent to Microsoft, where it is saved and compared to a frequently updated list of websites that are similar to ones you visit often. Suggested Sites also turns on automatic background updating for Web Slices and feeds so that you can receive up-to-date suggestions in both Suggested Sites and the Suggested Sites Web Slice.
You can choose to pause or stop the Suggested Sites feature from sending your web browsing history to Microsoft at any time. You can also delete individual entries from your history at any time. Deleted entries will not be used to provide you suggestions for other websites, although they will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services, including this feature. Any websites you visit while InPrivate Browsing is active will not be sent to Microsoft.
When Suggested Sites is turned on, the addresses of websites you visit are sent to Microsoft, together with standard computer information. To help protect your privacy, the information is encrypted when sent to Microsoft. Information associated with the web address, such as search terms or data you entered in forms might be included. For example, if you visited the Microsoft.com search website at http://search.microsoft.com and entered “Seattle” as the search term, the full address http://search.microsoft.com/results.aspx?q=Seattle&qsc0=0&FORM=QBMH1&mkt=en-US will be sent. Address strings might unintentionally contain personal information, but this information, like the other information sent, is not used to identify, contact or target advertising to you. In addition, Microsoft filters address strings to try to remove personal information where possible.
Statistics about your usage of Suggested Sites will also be sent to Microsoft such as the time that websites were visited, which website referred you, and how you got there (e.g., by clicking a link or one of your Favorites). A unique identifier generated by Internet Explorer is also sent. The unique identifier is a randomly generated number that does not contain any personal information and is not used to identify you. If you delete your browsing history or if you turn Suggested Sites off and back on again, a new unique identifier will be created. There is no way to correlate an old unique identifier with a new one. This information, along with the website addresses and past history, will be used to personalize your experience, as well as improve the quality of our products and services.
That’s pretty straight forward to me. I think the google team overstated the problem, but I think it really cast some light on what microsoft is doing, how they’re doing it and how their moral compass works collecting this information from you.
I’ll stick to google.