Bing Steals from Google. So What?

Bing Steals from Google. So What?
   You have probably read the news about Google accusing Microsoft of stealing their search results. The reaction of Microsoft moved in the whole range from not denying to accusing Google of click fraud. Undoubtedly the whole Internet population eagerly awaits my verdict on this case.

   We should first clear out what are the exact accusations. Google claims that certain features in Microsoft products track what users click on Google. The features in question are IE's Suggested Sites and the Bing Bar which is installed separately from IE and Windows but comes preinstalled with many new computers and is an option in the installation of many products from Microsoft. Google does not claim that Microsoft copies the search results directly from the Google service. In fact their experiment confirms that Microsoft does not. The only claim is that Microsoft is looking at what users of the accused Microsoft products are clicking after a search on Google.

   What goes into making a good search engine? It turns out one needs a good ranking algorithm and a lot of data for this algorithm to consume. The data is even more important than the algorithm. The data links words to URLs. For example a word in a link is connected to the URL of that link by the fact that someone has decided that this word describes the URL. Search engines have a lot of ways to link words to URLs. In its first post Microsoft says that Bing uses over a thousand ways (called signals) to do this. Different signals have different weight and the algorithm uses them in different ways. One very important signal happens to be on what result users click after a search. Most search engines including Google track that, usually via a JavaScript on the page. This signal is really important because a human has determined the relevancy of the result in the semantic context of a web search. This is arguably as good signal as you can get.

   Why is Microsoft stealing this signal? As it turns out in order to generate a lot of this particular data you need a lot of users making a lot of searches. In order to get a lot of users to make a lot of searches you need a good search engine. In order to build a good search engine you need a lot of data. It is a catch 22. Google are effectively monopolizing this data. Even if someone has a better algorithm Google will still be better because there is no way for anyone to get the data to feed the algorithm. Some of the more leftish readers may argue that Google should be obliged to share the data by antitrust body. I do not buy the antitrust bullshit and I believe that Google worked hard to get this data and they are in their full right to exploit it as they see fit.

   I should point out right now that my personal belief is that Microsoft did plug into this signal and what Google claim is true for Bing Bar but not for Suggested Sites. Having two features report the same thing does not make sense and I believe the IE team is independent enough from the Bing team. What is more Microsoft will surely want to keep IE clean. What Microsoft is (probably) doing is totally legal too. If it was not Google would be suing right now. I also think that the Bing team idea is actually ingenious. They cannot gather enough user generated data from their own service but they have found a way to gather it when it is sent to Google thus breaking the circle.

   Google's position is that Microsoft is stealing their results but this is not true. What Microsoft is stealing is the user generated signals. Google do not own their users and the data they generate. What is more these users are not only Google's users but also Bing Bar's users. You may say that the clicks Microsoft harvests are on the Google's web site. So what? The information comes from the user. He makes the semantic link between the word and the search result. Google's claim of theft is like me claiming that Google are stealing from me because they are reading the semantic data I have put into the links on my website. It is even worse because I actually created the data on my website myself and they did not create the data Microsoft collects.

  On the technical side harvesting the signal makes more sense than querying the Google service directly. Displaying Google's result will improve the search quality for the stolen words but it will not improve Bing's technology because the semantics that go into building the rankings are lost. However if Bing tracks the user clicks it preserves the semantics because it knows the origin of the data and this makes it much more useful.

  The situation is really strange. Google cannot sue Microsoft and cannot prevent Microsoft from harvesting more user clicks by technical means. The only thing they can do is go for a P.R. attack and so they did. They announced their theory the day before a search related event sponsored by Bing and tilted the whole discussion towards this problem. Now the real question is how Microsoft will be able to control the damage. Usually Microsoft is pretty bad at P.R. and Google are kings so maybe Microsoft will regret doing what they did (if they did it). I personally liked the initial reaction a lot. Ars Technica summarized it as saying "So what?". And this is exactly what their position should be. They are not doing anything wrong and should not be ashamed of it.
Tags:   english tech 
Posted by:   Stilgar
01:57 04.02.2011


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Posted by   Windom Earle (Unregistered)   on   07:40 04.02.2011

Microsoft are wasting their time and money with this project. Even if the Bing team and their so called ingenious idea improve Bing to the level of Google or make it even better by technical means (assume they have great algorithms and tons of data to 'feed' them), I don't see it becoming successful. Google is(are?) in search engines what Xerox is in photocopiers (maybe gatakka can contribute with a far more intriguing comparison here :) ) and as you said MS are(is?) quite bad at P.R. People (I) are sick, for example, of the Facebook integration with Bing and just won't use anything else than Google. I would rather not falling into details but I have to admit that my statement is completely subjective and is not based on any trends or statistical data. Consider my 'hungry' algorithm quite reliable though :P

Posted by   Echeveria (Unregistered)   on   12:11 04.02.2011

Абе къв Бикг, кви 5 евро?! Кой го ползва това нещо, даже закоравелите уин фенове не го гледат много сериозно (за лудите не знам). Познавам много хора ползващи уиндоус и ИЕ и ако има кажеш да ползват нещо различно от гуугъл и се паникюсват.
Аз дето съм човек който не вярва на гуглите и се мъча да ги избегна, няма как да го направя на 100% - няма сериозна алтернатива, пробвал съм!

Posted by   Stilgar   on   12:41 04.02.2011

I agree in principle. I personally use Bing on one of my 3 machines in order to test it. It is not as bad as you may expect but it is inferior to Google for sure. The point is that if Google disappears tomorrow the end of the world won't come and Bing will be able to replace it. What is more even if people most don't start using Bing (and in IT no one is safe from going down even Google) it has strategic value. For example Bing powers search related stuff in Yahoo and Facebook. All things powered by Bing amount to more than 10% of world's search. This may not seem like a lot but remember that these 10% hit directly into Google's profits. The reason Bing exists is the same as the reason for Google Docs to exist.

However this is not the point of the article. The interesting part is the war for user generated data.

Posted by   JOKe (Unregistered)   on   12:55 04.02.2011

Bing is renamed version of Windows Live Search with better name and the same shitty page. The only reason WHY there are some people which search using bing is because bing came as default search engine on some machines/browsers... like IE/Opera after the first search everyone changes the search provider to god google :D and it is normal.

Posted by   Stilgar   on   13:04 04.02.2011

Not really. Yahoo still get more than 6% of the world's search and Bing gets more than 3 (remember yahoo is in fact Bing).

Anyway what does this have to do with the article?

Posted by   Guest (Unregistered)   on   15:59 04.02.2011

Ми не знам, аз ползвам яндекс когато търся на руски и определено се справя в някой отношения по добре и от гуглето. Обаче аз в крайна сметака не разбрах с тоя тулбар ако я вярно, къв им е проблема да си ползват бингсовото търсене при положение че тези които няма да ползват бинг ще си ползват другото, което им допада ако попаднат на подобна машина.

Posted by   Stilgar   on   16:08 04.02.2011

Bing toolbar e instaliran na mashini na koito se polzva Google. Informaciata kakvo clicka usera ot rezultatite e super vajna i zatova Bing se chudiat kak da suberat poveche ot neia.

Posted by   Guest (Unregistered)   on   16:23 04.02.2011

Да бе то ясно че не са го направили за бог да прости!

Posted by   Windom Earle (Unregistered)   on   16:24 04.02.2011

In other words we are indirectly mocking the pointless war for user generated data. MS are straining for an impossible purpose and Google's reaction is simply a greedy overreaction. The link above leaves me with the impression that Google's share didn't move since last February :)
Although I admire MS's attack in the same time, it's somehow beautiful. But I'd prefer if they innovate while seeing the big picture. I'm not excluding the possibility of me not seeing it though. :)

Posted by   Stilgar   on   16:46 04.02.2011

They are just aiming at reducing Google's profits.

Posted by   Windom Earle (Unregistered)   on   17:08 04.02.2011

Still I don't see it effective, speaking with statistical data this time. And it's just now that Google found about the 'stealing' process but it should have been working for a while. However percentages are nearly the same. Maybe it really isn't the point of this article so I will stop right here.

Posted by   Stilgar   on   17:20 04.02.2011

Well Google are also imrpoving their service. Bing just needs to keep up in order to keep its marketshare and thus keep reducing Google's profits in the future. An increase in market share would be welcome but even if they stay at whatever % they have it is still effective. I guess this is the reasoning behind Bing.

Posted by   JOKe (Unregistered)   on   18:40 04.02.2011


Posted by   JOKe (Unregistered)   on   18:42 04.02.2011 beshe nai qkiq search jalko che go spriaha.

Posted by   k1lcone   on   21:49 11.04.2011

ем кърти мивки чисти извозва, ама за windows phone 7 само бингове има у картите. не изглеждат по различни от гуглету.

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