Bing has come under fire after Google claims that the Microsoft-owned search engine has been plagiarising Google's own search results.
Google has been running a 'sting operation' to try and catch Bing in the act of copying Google's search results and thinks it has succeeded.
By planting manually ranked pages for certain unusual search terms (ever searched for hiybbprqag?), Google watched to see if Bing picked up its randomly inserted results (The Wiltern seating charts). It did.
A grim example
According to SearchEngineLand, Google has been suspicious of Bing for some time, having noticed Microsoft's search engine returning accurate results for misspelled search terms.
It cites the example of searching for 'torsoraphy', which Google corrects to 'tarsorrhaphy' and returns search results for the correctly-spelt word (not one for the squeamish, it refers to a surgical procedure in which the eyelids are sewn together).
The same search on Bing does not correct the spelling but does returns results for 'tarsorrhaphy' anyway – of course, there's a chance that Bing has a spelling correction algorithm at work behind the scenes here, but it was these kinds of results that set alarm bells ringing over at Google HQ.
Far from straight-up denying the claims, Stefan Weitz, director of Bing, told SearchEngineLand, "As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry, we're not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it.
"Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query.
"Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This "Google experiment" seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals."
Whatever way Bing spins it, Google is unhappy with the situation.
As Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, said, "I've got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book."