Google's Childish Response To Microsoft Using Google To Increase Bing Relevance

from the get-over-it dept

It's inevitable as a company gets bigger and older that rather than just competing in the market, it starts attacking competitors and accusing them of doing something "wrong." It's too bad that Google appears to have reached this stage. There have been plenty of stories lately about Google's decreasing relevance and how its search results have been getting worse. There are plenty of ways to respond to this and improving search quality should be the main focus. But it looks like Google has, instead, decided to call out competitors. Specifically, Google set up an elaborate and pointless "sting operation," which appears to show that Microsoft uses Google results as a part of its overall relevance algorithm. Basically, it looks like for users who have the Bing toolbar installed, Microsoft aggregates some search information, perhaps including Google results, and weighs them (only partially) into its own algorithm.

This seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Google's search results are public and as an established player in the market, almost every comparison of alternative search engines, including Bing, compares it to Google. So, making use of Google data to improve its own rankings seems like a rather smart move.

Remember, too, that Google's own search algorithm is based on viewing what people are doing online and coming up with a ranking based on that. How is that any different than Microsoft viewing a variety of information online -- including Google's own search rankings -- and using that as the basis of its own rankings? But instead of recognizing that this is all perfectly reasonable, Google starts acting like the RIAA, accusing Microsoft of "cheating" and doing something that is potentially illegal. It even pops out this line from Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow who apparently oversees Google's search ranking algorithm.
"I've got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book."
As if Google hasn't copied the work of others in the past? The very basis for the original Page Rank was "copied" from Jon Kleinberg's research and then built upon that work. It was not a direct copy, just as Microsoft's search results are not a direct copy. For Google to attack a competitor for using open information on the web -- the same way it does -- seems like the height of hypocrisy. It's fine for Google to crawl and index whatever sites it wants in order to set up its ranking algorithms, but the second someone looks at Google's own rankings as part of their own determination, suddenly its "cheating"?

This seems like the latest in a series of indications that Google has moved past the innovation stage into the "protecting its turf" stage. That would be a shame.

Filed Under: algorithms, bing, relevance, search
Companies: google, microsoft

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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 1 Feb 2011 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I kind of see your point above, but I'm not so sure about your assumption that the data from Google dwarfs their other data sources. Google could only demonstrate that this was even happening by inventing fake queries to isolate the test from the many other data sources Bing no doubt makes use of.

    If it were true that they were simply training their algorithm based on the results from Google's algorithm, then perhaps you could call this cheating from an engineering standpoint - but if that were the case, there would be no reason for them to do it, would there? As you say, Algorithm B could never measure up to Algorithm A under that system.

    But remember, this is not a right/wrong situation - the quality of search results is always going to be somewhat subjective. So if they have developed their own algorithm that they believe to be superior, which they are training with a wide variety of data sources, and they include data from Google - well, that just seems smart.

    What I'd really like to see here is a statement from Google saying they have never done this before - but I doubt they would make such a statement because I highly doubt that's the case. Do you think that, when Google was first entering the scene and developing its search algorithms, they never aggregated data about what users were clicking on in Lycos and Altavista? Because I would be pretty astonished if they didn't.

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