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Google's Search Copying Accusation Called 'Silly'

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the well-that's-not-very-silly-now-is-it? dept.

Google 380

itwbennett writes "Google's Bing sting, reported in Slashdot just days ago and subsequently denied by Microsoft, is now being called 'silly' and 'petty' by search industry analysts and execs. The reason: it would be impossible for Microsoft to use the copied results to reverse engineer Google's search algorithms. And in fact it is more likely that Microsoft was conducting competitive research. Charlene Li, founder of technology research and advisory firm Altimeter Group, saw Google's actions as a misguided response to a real threat from a competitor in its core search business. 'Google isn't used to having competition. You look at this incident and you wonder why they are doing this. It feels amateurish in a way, a kind of 'they're not playing fair' attitude,' she said."

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Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109770)

They don't have to copy an algorithm if they are just copying search results. This response is amateur.

Re:Seriously? (5, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109806)

I agree totally. What "research" includes looking for an already searched term on Google and then looking at what results come up...then slapping them into your own live result list for the general public? Bing's cheap algorithm is some search and crawling technology from like 2007 mixed with marketing, marketing, MARKETING! Oh, and flashy features that don't really work. So it's not that shocking that they're ripping off other people's results because their product is pretty hollow to begin with.

Re:Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109844)

Hey, looking at the test next to mine isn't cheating. It's not like I could reverse-engineer the other students algorithm by looking at his test!

Re:Seriously? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110038)

Microsoft is looking at the user's clickthrough: Given a choice of ten web sites, which one does the user expect to be most relevant to the search term? This is empirical information that is not provided by Google and as such can not be copied from Google.

Suppose a Windows 7 phone user looks up a club through Bing and then meets with his friends there, and the Google Latitude app then counts this in favor of that location. Is Google then copying from Microsoft?

Re:Seriously? (-1, Troll)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110102)

A more apt analogy would be a student attending a lecture on a subject of interest.

Later in that year he takes a class on the subject and it turns out the earlier lecture was taught by a former student. When the final test comes he discovers that the earlier lecture was based on the questions within the test.

Microsoft is correct in their rebuttal. What Google did was equitable to click fraud. It wasn't a proper "honeypot", they simply manufactured a website with a unique keyword and then clicked a link. Unless Microsoft explicitly engineered their program to ignore any activity in the Google.com domain the crawler would simply see a URL with an interesting and unique keyword and an associated link clicked. That's what an indexer is designed to do.

A proper honeypot would have reduced the variables by repeating the test on a non Google.com domain to see if a random website with similar random jibberish and links would also be indexed and whether it would be at a comparable rate. Even with the manufactured websites Google admits that the indexer only indexed 6% of their attempts.

All Google discovered is that Microsoft does exactly what they said they did--improve their result rankings by analyzing their users browsing. Part of their users browsing evidently happened to include the Google.com domain.

Re:Seriously? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110162)

This PR campaign is going to give the opposite of the intended result, just like all of them do lately. Microsoft needs to hire a pr firm that knows what they are doing. You know what? Never mind. Carry on, love your work.

Re:Seriously? (4, Insightful)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110074)

I also agree - Bing is cheating. Never mind Google, they're second-sourcing ~everyone's~ results without giving them credit.

Every search engine has its own search methods and data-parsing algorithms (down to the lowest in-site-search php code), and it is these algorithms that provide the 'top results' that bing toolbar (and/or IE) users are clicking on. Never mind the Bing toolbar user; what if the owner/creator of a search engine doesn't want any data generated by it to be sent to Bing - where does ~he~ opt out of MS' data-sculling program?

Bing's tactics are distasteful for many reasons, but mainly a) because they exploit (toolbar) users to scull data from competitors and b) because Bing uses this data to provide 'top results' that it obviously values above those provided by its own algorithm. This is borderline - if not outright - industrial espionage.

Re:Seriously? (4, Interesting)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110094)

A pure marketing lead response is 100% right. The funniest thing was that the attempt to claim click fraud [businessinsider.com] . If we remember click fraud is where a site owner tries to get advertising revenue by making fraudulent clicks. I don't see how Google manages to get advertising revenue from Bing. This just seems to be a case of when you get caught start slinging as much mud around randomly as you can and hope people don't notice.

In case people haven't noticed; what Google has discovered means that if you have private information leaked somewhere (e.g. a password in an SQL query) this means that bing is now pushing that straight from your browser (where it should normally be safe) onto the web. I'm surprised nobody has managed to find a bunch of interesting secret information in bing based on this. There must be some way to get it out. A good chance would be looking for unique keys in URLs or web pages and then feeding them into Bing.

This just looks so obviously terribly wrong that you can see that Microsoft really doesn't have a clue about search. No wonder they have to copy.

Re:Seriously? (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109874)

No kidding. I'm used to nonsense from "industry analysts", but this takes the cake. It's a complete non-sequitur. This never was a question of reverse-engineering. It's a question of straight-up ripping off results.

On a related note, what's with all the Google-bashing recently? First the idea (which has now turned into a meme) that Google's search result are not the gold standard for search anymore, and now the idea (probably soon to be turned into a meme) that Google can't handle competition and is resorting to FUD?

Yes, Google is no saint, it's not perfect. No shit, Sherlock. But if all I did was read "industry analysts" and various websites, I'd think that Google was about to fall apart, what with search sucking and all other products completely falling flat on their face. There's either a general search for the same story going on (Look Ma! I broke the news of Google sucking first!), or some grade A bullshitting is taking place.

Re:Seriously? (5, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109958)

What's worse is that Microsoft is a client of Altimeter Group:

http://www.altimetergroup.com/disclosure [altimetergroup.com]

Sorry Slashdot, maybe before pushing a story to front page you do a bit of research. The story was submitted by IDG (itwbennett), one of the biggest Microsoft shills on the net. This is all getting out of hand, Microsoft is in damage control and just pushing this FUD about to ensure that faithful Bingsheep keep thinking it's "the best search provider".

Re:Seriously? (5, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109984)

Sorry to reply to myself, but I just checked out Charlene's Twitter feed.

http://twitter.com/#!/charleneli [twitter.com]

Can we say Microsoft shill?

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110240)

My first thought exatly! I dont trustt anybody anymore, when money comes in, honestly goes out. exspecially if he/she is a american.

jk
Finland

Re:Seriously? (0, Flamebait)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109998)

The story was submitted by IDG (itwbennett), one of the biggest Microsoft shills on the net.

Really? IDG, which publishes a number of different brands including MacWorld, JavaWorld, and LinuxWorld, is "one of the biggest Microsoft shills on the net"? I wonder what they'd have to do, in your mind, to only qualify as one of the smaller shills.

Re:Seriously? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110182)

I quit reading linuxworld years ago when it was clear they had gone over to the dark side. I don't know about the others. Just because a site is about a thing does not mean it's for that thing.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109972)

This is very typical crap from Timothy. He always posting articles on how Google can do nothing right, Android is horrible and I how I want to have Steve Jobs' iBabies.

Re:Seriously? (2)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110186)

This is very typical crap from Timothy. He always posting articles on how Google can do nothing right, Android is horrible and I how I want to have Steve Jobs' iBabies.

Who doesn't want to have Steve Jobs iBabies? (grin)

Re:Seriously? (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110006)

I've only ever noticed search getting better.

Re:Seriously? (4, Interesting)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110108)

On a related note, what's with all the Google-bashing recently?

I've seen some of it followed up on Grocklaw. As usual, it seems to trace back to Microsoft astro-turfers and lobby groups of various kinds. Microsoft seems to be pushing for some anti-Google anti-trust lawsuits, probably as a pre-emptive move to make any Google anti-trust moves more difficult during the various anti-patent lawsuits.

Re:Seriously? (2, Insightful)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109964)

I can't believe the number of clueless comments in this thread. Do you still not know what the original story was about? People who have opted to send information to microsoft used google (and various other search engines) to search for something. The Bing toolbar, or whatever was collecting the information, noted that person X searched for term Y, and eventually ended up at page Z. It makes perfect sense to connect Y and Z, regardless of the search engine used, or even if they asked a friend to point them to a page about the subject. That isn't nearly as blatant as you are all claiming. They aren't searching google to get their search results. They are looking at what people are actually looking for based on their searches and browsing. Certainly not cheating.

Re:Seriously? (1, Insightful)

imthesponge (621107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109996)

It is cheating, regardless of the roundabout way they try to justify it.

Re:Seriously? (0)

rmo6 (47545) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110080)

The fact you got modded up just goes to show how far the Microsoft bias runs here.

If it were illegal or cheating, you would have had video of the lawyers running to the courthouse. If any of you don't think that this was just a well-timed PR attack against Bing by Google, I have some swamp land in Florida I will sell you. All you have to do is watch the video of the search conference to know Google's agenda - try and discredit Bing by any means necessary. Once Cutts got the floor to speak, the moderator's question was ignored and Google/Cutts went on the offensive. They even recruited Danny Sullivan to the party beforehand to release the story (which btw, he's written a follow-up and if he backpedaled any faster he could be a cornerback in the NFL).

Once again, here are the facts of what happened since none of you even cared to read the analysis it seems -
1) Google manually manipulated their search results - something they claim never to do.
2) They then sent a group of Google engineers home to use Internet Explorer after opting-in and turning on Suggested Sites and started searching for very long tailed terms in Google and clicking on the results they wanted (btw, if 20 friends and I did this for some sites I own to improve its search ranking position, Google would penalize our site for this exact behavior).
3) Only 7-9% of the longest of long tail queries (gibberish) were showing the same top result on Bing as Google when there was no way Bing should be returning any results. There were other results returned by Bing for some terms outside of the top result that didn't match. Google has no explanation as to why the other 91-93% of honeypot terms didn't produce affirmative results for Bing showing the same result.
4) Bing admits yes, we take user click and search data, harvest it and use it as a ranking factor - 1 of 1000s. (Btw, the Google Toolbar does the same exact thing people).

You people need to wake up already. If you don't see what Google is turning into, I'm sorry you're a lost cause. I can't even begin to believe that people are arguing that after you opt-in, run a coordinated SERP clicking operation, manually change your search results after you say you never have done so and have many products that do similar information harvesting that you're so blind to see the other side of this.

If Google were serious about this behavior by Bing, they would have focused on the "stealing" of trade technology - mainly their spell checking function. To me, that's the only issue that's even worthwhile of a serious debate here. One could argue that the longest of long tails are misspellings and if Google is offering up the correct results to users even after the user misspells a word that Bing is piggybacking that technology regardless of users opting-in to have their click behaviors harvested.

Google does not own the exclusive rights to my click behavior and they need to stop talking and acting as if they do.

Re:Seriously? (0, Troll)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110154)

"The fact you got modded up just goes to show how far the Microsoft bias runs here."

No really, it's more about being right.

Re:Seriously? (3, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110082)

Methinks you are the clueless one here. The important part is indeed that Bing is essentially using Google results to boost its own accuracy. It doesn't matter that it comes through a user clicking on the first result of a Google search and opting to send that action to Microsoft. It wouldn't matter if MS had a bot directly scraping results from Google or had gremlins pick through the algorithm to send results via ESP. Microsoft deliberately and knowingly incorporated Google results into its own results, but without acknowledging this fact anywhere. That is the definition of plagiarism, and ultimately, cheating.

If that's not the ultimate admission of "We don't know what the fuck we're doing, and have resorted to copying other people's results", I don't know what is.

Re:Seriously? (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110106)

You think the other commenters are clueless because it's you who don't get it. The point is that the users typed those search queries into Google and then selected search results that Google provided. Bing is not harvesting search results from Google directly, but they might as well have been doing that - this is just a more roundabout way of accomplishing the exact same thing as Bing directly doing searches at Google and noting the results for use as search results on Bing itself. The result is the same.

Re:Seriously? (2)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110188)

I'll bet if you did the same thing with Bing, but just clicked on lower links on the search results page, those search results would be pushed up closer to the top. They aren't copying algorithms. They are saying "hey, this guy was looking for a page about horses, and then they went to this page. We should promote that result." It's smart. MS is allowed to be innovative. You don't have to have a fit when they get things right.

Re:Seriously? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110222)

It's a lost cause I'm afraid. Far too late to teach these ones right from wrong. They think us foolish for making such distinctions. To them it't just business. They truly are incapable of understanding what you are trying to tell them.

Re:Seriously? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110202)

Tricking innocent third parties into helping you cheat does not absolve you of guilt when you get caught. And attempting to shift the blame onto them is likely to make them not like you even more than abusing their trust in this way.

Re:Seriously? (3, Insightful)

Maestro4k (707634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109968)

They don't have to copy an algorithm if they are just copying search results. This response is amateur.

You can certainly make the case that Google setting up the "sting" operation was "silly", or "petty", but Microsoft's response to the whole thing has been quite enlightening. I think it's Microsoft that's got issues with having a real competitor, and it shows. Google's kinda just rubbing salt into the wounds, which isn't very professional, but MS needs to respond better. Trying to deny it, and at the same time accuse Google of committing "click fraud" to setup the sting (something which has a very specific meaning [wikipedia.org] that's mostly criminal and has not a damn thing to do with Google's "sting" operation) comes across as... desperate at best.

Personally I think the whole thing is silly on both sides, but MS's response has done a lot to wipe out the little bit of trust they'd gained in past years for behaving somewhat better. MS's response, and not the whole "sting", is making me even less likely to use Bing in the future as well. Both of these are outcomes I suspect MS didn't want to cause with their reaction. In a nutshell, Google won this little fight when MS started responding with denials and attempts to make Google look like they'd done criminal stuff.

Re:Seriously? (1)

chentiangemalc (1710624) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109988)

It is obivous, even from reading Google's details of the allegated copying that Microsoft is copying search results. So before you call responses amateur I suggest you go and research the issue a bit better before believing in Google's PR BS. Microsoft is not copying search results, and you can prove this yourself by doing searchs in Bing and Microsoft and find the results are very different. First only 9/100 Googles tests demonstrated the copying, and even those cases the results aren't exact copies. The results showing up in Bing are a result of click-through data from IE users who opted in to send this data to Microsoft. The click through data influences the ranking. But it is not copying the result. For example even if google listed site x as #1 but users clicked through on #5 in significant numbers, it may increase the ranking in Bing. It doesn't look at how google has ranked it. So this is not copying, not even copying the results. Google should spend more time on getting Honeycomb ready then wasting their time on Honeypots.

Re:Seriously? (1)

imthesponge (621107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110034)

Taking Google's search results and incorporating them into Bing's results is indisputable copying. "We just copied a little bit" isn't an excuse, especially when they could have easily filtered their input to exclude links from other search engines.

Re:Seriously? (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110198)

They are *not* taking Google's search results. They are looking at what surfers search for, and then at what pages they end up on. I'd wager that they don't even look at the search results page, just what page the user ends up at.

Re:Seriously? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110244)

The only association with the term with the target page on the entire internet is the Google results. The term does not occur on the target page. It does not occur on any pages that link to the target because it's carefully chosen to be unique to the test. Since the association between the term and the target exists nowhere but Google search, for Bing to use that association - however they found it out - is to cheat and copy the Google search result. Period. There is no other way. It is solid proof of copying. Is it illegal? Probably not. Is it wrong? Absolutely yes.

Re:Seriously? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110174)

Exactly! Robbers don't steal jewels and cash to get specimens to duplicate, they just steal.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110180)

They don't have to copy an algorithm if they are just copying search results.

You lie.

As I thought (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109772)

I could sure go for a tall, cool glass of anal juice right about now.

Re:As I thought (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109894)

open wide cause I've got the shits!

Pot Calling the Kettle Black (2, Insightful)

powerspike (729889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109774)

I do a lot of internet marketing, about 12 months ago, for around a week, I kept finding bing results in the google search results for various queries, they would be stupid Not to check out the competitions results and quality level. if you do a site:bing.com search, you'll still find some bing results in the google listings, but no where near as much as they where a year ago.

Re:Pot Calling the Kettle Black (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109846)

Linking to Bing is not even remotely the same thing as copying search results. In fact, it's just about the opposite, because it gives Bing all the credit. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft actually expends effort to get Bing pages into Google search results, as many websites do.

Not a case of Pot Calling the Kettle Black (3, Interesting)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109954)

I think you're confused on the point of "attack".

For example, I can post a link to this page [cnet.com] . Google can now see the page. Of course, it could get to that page from within shopper.cnet.com, anyway, but the robots.txt file or NOINDEX/NOFOLLOW tags may be warning it off. (So Google has to walk the URL back up to http://shopper.cnet.com/robots.txt [cnet.com] , to make sure, and it may not see http://www.shopper.com/robots.txt [shopper.com] , by the way.)

More to the point, I can post a link to this page [cnet.com] of a search result on shopper.com. Then Google can see that search. And, in an hour or two, it might show up in a google search of "wall wart servers", which would be useless, but anyway.

I can post a link to this query [cnet.com] , however, and, not only might Google's spider collect it (from here), but it might not even have to get it from here. I'm probably not the first person to search shopper.com for "Small office home office server".

I can't see there being an ethical issue here, because those links feed people to shopper.com. In fact, cnet likely has some agreements with Google on that. And many such search sites (well, smaller ones) deliberately use Google's search engines to save themselves a bit of infrastructure cost.

Google, on the other hand, may prefer not to put some of those small search sites results on their general search pages, but that's a side issue.

Now, how do you suppose that bing picks up a query like, "m4-7734-6al 63363r [google.com] "? Unless someone posts that (like I just did), how does bing get that query just from my using it in a Google search a few minutes ago?

To say this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, you'd be accusing google of planting code in Chrome that watches for bing search results and feeds them back to google's search engine optimizer on the sly. (A new way for a browser to call home!) And/or of making deals with the Mozilla team. But the evidence you mention doesn't really support that, as someone else points out.

"Competitive Research" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109776)

I don't see this phrase going down well in any other industry. If you copy a map or a book or the design for a car from a different company in the same field, you wouldn't get out of it by calling it "competitive research". Microsoft doesn't need to reverse engineer google's algorithm if they can just steal their results directly; in fact, it's simpler this way because it cuts out the middle part where they even bother to figure out how it works.

Re:"Competitive Research" (4, Insightful)

grantek (979387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109884)

It's not "research" if the leeched data appears on your production site automatically and without review...

Re:"Competitive Research" (1)

satuon (1822492) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109898)

I wonder if I can do a site that loads javascript that loads and reformats Google's search results, and then inserts my own ads, and make it a Google competitor. My search results would be good, too.

Re:"Competitive Research" (1)

johanatan (1159309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109976)

Just make sure to use a botnet to grab the results from many different IPs and forward them to you so they can't shut you down.

Re:"Competitive Research" (1)

brillow (917507) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109944)

Ok I see your point. I am a search consumer. What do I care?

Re:"Competitive Research" (2)

pugugly (152978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110112)

I'd say you care because if you don't care Microsoft's tactic here might work.

Presuming you're interested in getting better search results, lets assume for a moment Microsoft had not gotten caught.

Microsoft's results benefit from both their research, and Googles, not matter how little research they put into it - since we've premised this on their never getting caught, eventually Bing becomes the dominant engine, despite Googles desperate efforts to create a better search engine.

Then Google dies . . . and Bing stagnates, because the entire point of this exercise was to improve Bing's results without actually doing the work. The Internet moves on, and the newer Holographic starmaps aren't searchable, because market forces mean you have to beat Microsoft, people that silently cheat behind the scenes, before you can even bother trying to do the *new* search technologies.

And your life gets suckier, at least until we're all eaten by little green men from Betelgeuse, who looked up "Stupid planets that allow monopolies" found earth, and invade.

Microsoft improved their results by copying off their neighbour's papers. Google has proved what they were doing beyond any reasonable doubt, and whatever the legality of their doing so it would be stupid of me to trust Microsoft search results any more than I trust the guy that got caught coping off his neighbour's math test to do my accounting.

Pug

what i would like to know is (2, Informative)

chibiace (898665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109778)

who is paying these so called "search industry analysts and execs".

Re:what i would like to know is (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109856)

who is paying these so called "search industry analysts and execs".

Microsoft apparently.. ;)

Re (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109784)

google sting operation

It worked, though. (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109786)

It worked, though. It diverted attention from Microsoft's accusation that Google profits from search spam.

Are popular searches also copied? (1)

Utopia (149375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109792)

If its just the click result for some weird search words then I would say Microsoft was being very clever.

If Microsoft is exclusively using Google's click-through data for the all the popular search words then Microsoft is cheating.

Re:Are popular searches also copied? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109868)

Yes, Google made it clear that it was done in many different search terms. Some popular, some unpopular, some specifically made up for the sting.

Re:Are popular searches also copied? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110028)

And yet they only got 6 out of 100 completely unpopular terms to work.... hummm.... sounds like a bunch of ./ers are just agreeing with theirselves without RTFA. Nothing's changed.....

Feel sorry for microsoft (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109794)

That poor little upstart is struggling with all that competition that google does not have

Reverse engineer? (2)

euyis (1521257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109798)

Who needs to reverse engineer the Google's search algorithm when you can simply copy the results? Read the Google accusation again and it didn't even mention anything related to reverse engineering. Why is the "industry" always so silly?

allow me to cherry pick quotes. (3, Informative)

Nyall (646782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109800)

I read the article and it just seemed like a bunch of collated sound bites with all the intelligence of a 14 year old who thinks she wins arguments by being the first to call the other a hater.

Re:allow me to cherry pick quotes. (2)

Nyall (646782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109842)

p.s. I'm aware that comparing them to a 14 year old is probably just as much an ad hominem as a 14 year old who likes to call people haters.

Re:allow me to cherry pick quotes. (0)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109986)

To the 14 year olds!

BURRRRN!!

Microsoft is responding with misdirection (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109820)

They seem to be dancing around the core charge of copying what were nonsensical search results that, if not copied from Google, should not have returned any results. They also seem to be attempting to misdirect in talking about "copying Google's algorithm", when I believe the charge is specifically about copying search results.

I did note that the "Altimeter Group" has only been around a couple years - and has a very website that is full of vague social media-related buzzwords without indicating what, exactly, is their actual skillset (if anything).

misdirection indeed (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109870)

Summary:
google > We made up results, and you had the very same results. You wouldn't have the same results unless you copied.
microsoft > We are not copying because that wouldn't make sense. Google feels blahblah, Google is blahblah

Re:misdirection indeed (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109974)

Google proved the copying accusation, by placing some dummy, nonsensical results onto their site. Bing then copied them.

Re:Microsoft is responding with misdirection (3, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109878)

They seem to be dancing around the core charge of copying what were nonsensical search results that, if not copied from Google, should not have returned any results.

Uhm, how would that work, exactly?

Let's say you have a search engine toolbar that looks over a user's shoulder to see what webpages they go to. Presumably, the links that leave those web pages carry information on said user's interests (eg if the user reads slashdot, then the links point to things like other people's comments, and also the site which carries TFA, etc). So the text of that page and the links would be automatically connected by the search engine.

Now if a user goes on a webpage that happens to be a google results webpage, then the links on that webpage will be search results. If one user types in a weird query, then the toolbar will think that user likes those kinds of weird queries, and maybe that other people would like those, too.

So when another user now types exactly the same query to prove the "sting", then the search engine will think it has found another user who likes weird queries, no? So it should show the connections it has learned from the previous webpage.

Re:Microsoft is responding with misdirection (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109900)

All that you've said doesn't change the fact that Microsoft is taking Google's data. They're watching a user's Google query, and then watching the links which get clicked on as a result of Google's algorithm.

Microsoft shills can try to defend it or deflect the issue all they want, but the fact remains that the source of this data is Google. and that Microsoft is plagiarizing Google's results, whether directly or indirectly.

In addition, if this were not a major signal in their ranking, they'd likely stop using it to get away from the controversy. The fact that they're trying to dance around the issue rather than removing the signal proves that a major source of their search relevancy is Google search results.

Re:Microsoft is responding with misdirection (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109930)

In addition, if this were not a major signal in their ranking, they'd likely stop using it to get away from the controversy. The fact that they're trying to dance around the issue rather than removing the signal proves that a major source of their search relevancy is Google search results.

And yet only a fraction of Google's injected terms made it into Bing's results. If it were such a major part, all of them would have. All this does is show that given sparse information from other indicators, and a very strong indication from customer feedback, Bing will take into account customer feedback.

Re:Microsoft is responding with misdirection (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110012)

All this does is show that given sparse information from other indicators, and a very strong indication from customer feedback on Google searches, Bing will take into account customer feedback on Google searches. i.e. Bing steals google results when they don't have anything.

There, fixed that for you. Honest professor, I didn't cheat. I only used my neighbour's answers when I couldn't figure it out on my own.

Re:Microsoft is responding with misdirection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110014)

Google specifically stated that they saw the effects in many queries, including more common ones. They set up the sting to verify their suspicion that Microsoft was stealing their results. This isn't a matter of only taking data on edge cases, it's a widespread issue.

Also, that low percentage can quickly add up to hundreds of millions of searches. An increase in relevancy even on only 7% of your results is HUGE.

Someone is fudging the facts here! (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109822)

Compare the quote from the linked piece:

Google's charge that Microsoft copied its search results is much ado about nothing, some industry insiders say...

(emphasis mine).

To this one by the Slashdot editor:

"Google's Bing sting, reported in Slashdot just days ago and subsequently denied by Microsoft, is now being called 'silly' and 'petty' by search industry analysts and execs

To a seasoned tech reader like me, these two statements mean different things. I can get industry analysts who can support Google's position. Time will tell. Surely Slashdot can do better.

Re:Someone is fudging the facts here! (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110118)

Slashdot certainly could do better. It never actually has, though.

Re:Someone is fudging the facts here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110196)

And these "industry insiders" are of course in no way related to, or otherwise dependent on Microsoft. This is just stupid, MS have a long history of using "industry insiders" as talking heads, and IMO it's yet another sign of how far /. has fallen - apart from the frequent MegaFail makeovers - that such cheap tactics work even here.

Clearly an unbiased voice in this discussion (5, Informative)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109824)

Hey it's not like Microsoft is a client of the "Altimeter Group" and Google is not.

http://www.altimetergroup.com/disclosure [altimetergroup.com]

Oh? It's exactly like that?

Look. Nobody thinks that Microsoft is "trying to reverse engineer their algorithm" from search results, but what they are apparently doing is harvesting user data from clicks. It appears that when a user searches from something, and clicks a link as a result of that search, the search term and site that the user found relevant is collected and used in their own search algorithm -- so they are, to some degree, piggybacking on Google here.

On the one hand, its good to know what link your user found relevant -- that's important data for your own search engine to have, on the other hand that's really the sort of thing you should be gathering from your own damn search engine. I'm sure that by now, enough people are using Bing that they can get this data on their own. The only thing getting it through the browser instead of through bing allows them to do is gather it from Google users as well, which is essentially allowing them to tune their own algotrithm on the back of Google's.

It's shady to say the least. Perhaps it was created with good intent -- as discovery tool for when users are on websites with internal search engines, but its obviously pulling in a lot more than that. If Microsoft continues to abuse that, they deserve any bad publicity they get as a result.

Mod Parent Post UP! (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109888)

I was just wondering what the connection between Microsoft and this company was..

Microsoft is a client of Altimeter, they are protecting their revenue stream ...

So let me get this straight (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110016)

Its OK for Google to scour the web, and create an index that highly values the links that OTHER WEBSITES have for terms...

but its shady for Microsoft to do that to Google for its own product ?

I'm not so sure I follow the overriding "fairness" principle in making that assessment.

Re:Clearly an unbiased voice in this discussion (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110068)

I think you strongly overestimate the capabilities of current AI. How might a search engine's spider figure out that a random page on the internet, with some text and links, is actually a Google results page in disguise? And that goes for cached pages in a browser and live webpages spied on by toolbars.

Web spiders aren't human. Think about how many millions of web pages have free local search powered by Google, maybe reformatted in a site specific way? Think about how many web pages are cached copies, maybe only discovered from crawling a misconfigured web server log, or junk pages deliberately put up by spammers to game the search engines, etc.

Any one web page could contain a full or partial list of results by Google, or by Bing, or Ask, or Yahoo. It could also contain various RSS feeds and local content served by other sites in special boxes of some sort. There's also the fact that Yahoo used to be Google under the hood, now it's Bing under the hood, and that their results could be rebranded as well on certain sites. There's really no general way to know who contributes what piece of information on a webpage.

How would you program a web spider to know what's acceptable to read, and what should be ignored or unethical? There's no robots.txt for page level content. Once the page is in the index, a search engine algo will probably get a mangled, pre-parsed version of the page that would be even harder to decide if it contained specifically Google results or Bing results in a particular order etc.

I suspect that Google's success and ubiquity is working against it on this issue. Google's results are part of the web, and anyone who wants to harvest what's on the web in many different ways will be contaminated to some extent, at least until there's a big breakthrough in AI.

Dark Harvest (1)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109828)

Although I understand why Charlene Li might find the notion that search results themselves are IP and not merely the mechanics of the engine unsettling, the truth of the matter is: they are! You can't 'harvest' search queries and subsequent results and use them commercially any more than you can link searches in web411 to the corresponding results in the telephone directories! If Microsoft had been simply 'borrowing' listings _without_ associating them directly to the Google queries that had brought them up that would be one thing, but this is a bridge too far, and all I get from Altimeter Group's comments is a bit of a whine that they think it's unfair to be unable to engage in behaviour they themselves might like to engage in -- which is pretty pathetic. Build your own damn search algorithms!

Follow up from Danny Sullivan who broke the story (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109838)

http://searchengineland.com/bing-why-googles-wrong-in-its-accusations-63279

Is normal "competitive research" published? (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109840)

Since in Google's test the eventual outcome was plain to see for anyone that used the specific keywords they tested around, how is that "competitive research" on the part of Bing?

Competitive research is what Google does - check every now and then on how accurate Bing's results are to what Google is seeing. It doesn't alter what Google users see, it just tells Google how the competition is doing.

Bing's actions seem the opposite of "research" to me, because they are by design not actually examined by anyone at Bing, only by the customers! In the recent unveiling we see Bing acting as a routing engine to feed some Google results back through Bing. That is not research.

I can't imagine anyone calling the act of pointing this out petty - it casts into doubt any result you get on Bing, as far as input being from Bing matching algorithms or Google's. Even if Bing's algorithms are really good, we'll never know - and that's the most unfortunate thing about this whole situation, as it has tainted the work at Bing regardless of how good it actually is.

Thus the whole thing is not petty, it is in fact very sad for a number of undoubtedly quite smart computer scientists that will forever have this cloud overhead.

Not playing fair (1)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109848)

So if what Microsoft is doing is fair at what point does it exactly become unfair? They're currently harvesting Google's search results from users with software installed and settings enabled, and using that as a factor in their page relevance. What if I fore-go the users and setup some machines to automate this and submit search terms automatically for which I would like to borrow results? Is that fair? What if instead of just some search terms, it's an entire library of search terms? Is that fair? What if I just fucking setup a search page that submits queries to Google server side and returns the results sans ads, but with my own ads? Is THAT fair? Guys give me some funding I just had a great idea for a new search engine.

Re:Not playing fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109890)

Bing did not track Google search results. They track what user selected, with user consent. There is a big difference.
If the users are not real persons but servers, then it is blatant copying. Unfortunately for you, this is not the case.
Your arguing against a strawman.

Re:Not playing fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109946)

Again, where do you draw the line? What if the user is a Microsoft employee copying the results? What if it's a bunch of hired people through Amazon Turk manually copying them?

The fact of the matter is that these are Google's search results and that Microsoft is stealing them. It doesn't matter how they're stealing the results, the only thing that matters is that they are.

If you get caught by the police with a stolen cell phone, they're not going to let you off the hook just because you had a third-party steal the phone for you and then give it to you.

Altimeter group? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109860)

Who is this altimeter group anyway? For me, their disclosure page: gives:

Error 404 - Not Found
According to Wikipedia... A 404 Error means 'the client was able to communicate with the server but the server could not find what was requested'.
It's probably our fault.
Sorry.

Suspicious? Is Hanlon's Razor applicable? Hmmm.

Restaurant Menu Analogy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109866)

What Microsoft is doing is not copying, it is a competitive research.

Restaurant Analogy:
  1.) A customer ask "What's for breakfast"
  2.) Google waiter presents the list of items available for breakfast
  3.) Customer picked bacon and egg.
  4.) Microsoft observed that
  5.) Microsoft learns that when a customer is asking for breakfast, there is a chance that he wants bacon and egg.

Obviously, user choice is only one metric applied by Microsoft. On common search terms, the impact of user choices might not be a large factor.
Returning to the analogy, Google sting operation replaced the search term "What's for breakfast?" with "What's for adkfj1k?a3jfkas?" and the result from bacon and egg to "adsf1231#$".

What Google discovered is a way to game Bing's results.

Re:Restaurant Menu Analogy (1)

imthesponge (621107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109906)

The effect is that Microsoft copies Google's search results and publishes them as their own. The justification and/or method is irrelevant.

Re:Restaurant Menu Analogy (2)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109978)

That WOULD be the effect, if Microsoft were using ONLY this functionality for their search results. But hey guess what, they aren't. They are using a compounded collection of all types of web searches (google, yahoo, amazon, wikipedia, and more) as ONE part of their algorhythm, and even for rare terms, the results aren't a copy/paste of Google, they are still different...

Re:Restaurant Menu Analogy (1)

imthesponge (621107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110020)

Right, they copy from Google, among other places. Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether in part or in whole.

Re:Restaurant Menu Analogy (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110040)

Ask your professor if he still thinks it's cheating when you only copy your neighbour's answers on the few questions where you can't figure out the answer by yourself.

Quite different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110262)

Exam and search results are quite different. The purpose of the former is test if the student understood his lessons or not, while for the latter is simply to deliver. If the student copies his neighbour's result, it defeats the purpose of the exam. This is cheating. The goal of search, are simply, to deliver the results the user is most likely asking for. Observing how users use a competitor's product to improve your own is not cheating. It is competition.

Sam Walton did it to improve his stores (early days of Walmart). I would bet even Larry and Sergey used yahoo/altavista/etc search engines and observed what they are doing right and what are they doing wrong. This is the norm in business. That's probably only low level employees at Google are releasing these - Larry/Sergey/Schmidt/Marrisa knew better.

Well .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35109892)

(Actor) Steve Jobs: Good artists copy, great artists steal.

from Pirates of Silicon Valley

Re:Well .... (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110050)

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants" - Sir Isaac Newton
However Sir Isaac Newton wasn't trying to use his elevated vantage point to kick in the face of said giants.

Re:Well .... (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110134)

However Sir Isaac Newton wasn't trying to use his elevated vantage point to kick in the face of said giants.

You might want to look up the history of Newton and Leibnitz [wikipedia.org] who (almost certainly) independently invented calculus and used each other's work for some points of development. I think the only reason Newton left most of those giants alone was that they weren't in competition with him.

the lobby has talked (1)

carnicer (1449311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109908)

oh yeah people paid by microsoft have talked. IDG is like the MS journal

Re:the lobby has talked (1)

imthesponge (621107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109914)

What does that make Slashdot?

Can Yahoo scrape Bing search results... (1)

satuon (1822492) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109942)

... without paying them a share of the ad revenue, as they currently do?

Goatse anyone? (2, Funny)

BenJCarter (902199) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109970)

If I was Google I would Goatse [wikipedia.org] Bing's ass for being so lame.

I agree that it's silly (1)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109994)

Google can prevent Bing from scraping their data if they want to. Instead they allow it so they can "sting" them. Ridiculous.

Re:I agree that it's silly (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110250)

How would they prevent it? Bing wouldn't be sending packets to Google directly, they'd be pulling results of previous searches from users' PCs. There would be no different from Google's perspective in terms of packets received or sent. And at the moment, Google not only gives the direct search result links in the code as HREF links, it gives them all visually as well. Even if they scrambled the link results through their own forwarder with a tagging hash string, the visual and selectable text of the raw link is still right there under every search result.

I think this article says everything... (5, Informative)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110004)

I think this article says everything that needs to be said on the issue:

http://searchengineland.com/bing-why-googles-wrong-in-its-accusations-63279 [searchengineland.com]

Essentially Bing's defense (as outlined in the article) goes like this:

  • Bing is monitoring users who opted in to send Bing data. They are watching their activity on any site, and not specifically Google.
  • The search signal generated by users does not dominate, unless it's the only signal (as Google tried to ensure it would be) it will have more weight, but not absolute. Even Google's test showed this to be true, as only a fraction of their honeypot terms made it to the other side.
  • Less frequent seach terms (the example given is pontneddfechan) Bing's results are relevant, unique, and ordered differently from Google's. Google's tests reveal the very special case where 0 signal comes from other sources.
  • What's the BFD in the end? Google alleges Bing is stealing results, but only shows one concrete example of this (tarsorrhaphy), which can be easily accounted for by crawling Wikipedia, which seems much more likely.

Re:I think this article says everything... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110230)

> easily accounted for by crawling Wikipedia

No, because in the search it was misspelled.

If it was misspelled somewhere inside Wikipedia, then it still shouldn't have shown up, because Microsoft supports the Robots exclusion standard and Wikipedia links have NOFOLLOW on them which prevents compliant engines from using those links to weigh results.

http://www.bing.com/community/site_blogs/b/webmaster/archive/2008/06/03/robots-exclusion-protocol-joining-together-to-provide-better-documentation.aspx [bing.com]

Captcha: indexed

bullshit like this (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110030)

Bulllshit like this is how databases, and other mere collections of information, will become copyrightable. Whoever wins, we'll lose.

bing sucks ass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110066)

it turned out to be exactly what we all thought it would turn out to be...

Yet another badly copied ME TOO! offering from microsoft.

the name is fucking retarded as well.

Here is what the engines have to say about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35110078)

You be the judge..just a warning using the links included in this AC post will most likely make you go blind.

The first is from a string to bing that reads microsoft copies googles search results

  • http://www.bing.com/search?q=microsoft+copies+googles+search+results&go=&form=QBLH&filt=all&qs=n&sk=

this next one is from the string through google that is google copies microsofts bing search results

  • http://www.google.ca/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=google+copies+microsofts+bing+search+results&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=#hl=en&&sa=X&ei=tQtNTc3_NIessAP5kZnrCg&ved=0CCIQvwUoAQ&q=google+copies+microsoft%27s+bing+search+results&spell=1&fp=6f86e0bd9ae28f95

As any good analytical mind will see the results are really twisted the first one tries to sell me a copy of windows seven I guess because bing recognised that I was asking bing to search for something about google with firefox on a linux based OS.

the second one to google twisted my question around and corrected what I searched for to tell me that the only search results possible in this case were that Microsoft was copying their search results. Sounds like I should I should investigate more....oh shit who turned out the lights it is getting dark in here....help

When caught red handed unleash the FUD! (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35110194)

Leopards, spots. Kettle, black. m$, evil. You want real silliness, check out their patent for the not operator they invented [uspto.gov] . How on earth the world of software got by without this stunning breakthrough is a real mystery.

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