In an interesting display of ingenuity, Google engineers were able to trap and uncover tactics used by the Microsoft Bing search engine to develop the Bing search results. Google claims that the Bing search engine actually utilizes Google search results.
The tactic was not unlike how the United States government identifies counterfeit money. Every authentic U.S. currency bill utilizes an invisible fluorescent strip printed on the surface of large bills. Under a black light, the strip glows like the light of a full moon.
As Microsoft Bing climbs slowly up in the search engine market (currently at 10%, vs. Google’s 70%), Google turned its attention toward this new challenger on the field. Utilizing a technique that Microsoft referred to as a “Spy-Novelesque” approach, Google engineers crafted a “marker” keyword term that would prove Bing is copying Google’s search results.
Google configured its search results to return a certain generic web page at the top of Google listings for a very specific search term that no one would ever type into the search engines. The word was complete gibberish, but when the Google algorithm spotted the unique word, it would provide that unrelated web page at the top of Google’s listings.
Since this specific gibberish word – to – specific web page should have only resulted in Google’s search results displaying this behavior (due to the algorithmic “bug” that they intentionally programmed into it), Google could identify any search engines out there that utilize the same exact output from the Google-specific algorithm. The test apparently included about 100 of these “identifying” markers.
Because the web page and it’s top-listing for those search terms were completely synthetic and fabricated by Google’s algorithm alone, Google had set a trap that would reveal the presence of Google-algorithm-output anywhere.
The Results of the Sting Operation
This approach was tantamount to pouring a red dye into a specific water pipe to see where the red dye shows up. If it shows up in a pipe where that water has no business going, then you know that someone must have connected their pipe to yours.
After putting these algorithm changes, and the generic web pages in place, Google tested the Bing search engine, and sure enough the Bing results returned the same artificially ranked web page at the top of the listings. The placement of those web pages where the Google algorithm specifically placed them revealed that the Bing search engine heavily utilizes the output from Google’s search algorithm.
Google Engineer, Matt Cutts, publicly accused Microsoft today of, “copying Google’s results.” Online responses to the findings are overwhelmingly anti-Microsoft, with most commentators scoffing that it’s little surprise, since Microsoft is infamous for copying the work of others.
In a Microsoft blog post, the company responded by stating that the Bing search algorithm utilizes over 1000 inputs from various sources, and that Google was in fact one of those sources, but not the only one. Microsoft issued the following public statement via their blog:
What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment.
The response from Microsoft does little to explain why its search results so closely match those offered by Google, and why the Bing search engine was so blatantly caught extracting Google algorithm results while giving its users the impression that it is a unique search engine with its own unique algorithm, when that’s clearly not the case.
The Final Judgement
In the end, the real verdict will be doled out by Internet users. Given that Bing does make use of the Google algorithm output, is that enough to convince Bing users that Google should be a first choice when searching the net? Or, is Microsoft making a strong enough case that it’s okay for the company to copy Google search results and then “tweak” them according to input from almost a thousand other sources? Does the “tweaking” really make Bing better?
Share your thoughts about Google’s spy-like search sting operation in the comments section below.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com