co Who's The Bad Guy, Google Or Bing? |

Google claims Bing is copying its search results. Ouch! That’s a bold claim. Bing responds:

“We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm,” Bing vice president Harry Shum said Tuesday, referring to the mathematical code that search engines use to choose their results.

I’d be curious to know if any of those signals and features include crawling Google’s search results. If so, that could be a problem. Here’s why I think that’s possible:

Suspicious of their new rival, Google engineers set up random results on their site for a series of unlikely search terms, such as “hiybbprqag.” (Google arranged for the nonsense word to point to a Los Angeles theater seating plan on its search engine.)

“Within a couple weeks of starting this experiment, our inserted results started appearing in Bing,” Google said in a statement on its official blog Tuesday.

Evidently, Google thinks Bing could be doing something underhanded as well. Just looking at this story, it doesn’t look good for Bing.

I think competition is healthy. I certainly think Bing has a right to improve its search results and try almost anything that it thinks may help searchers find the information they are looking for. But if a nonsense search term invented by Google appears in Bing’s search results, that’s a huge red flag. I’m about 99.9999% sure that should never happen.

So why not 100% sure? Well, because of this response from Bing:

Bing gets “a small piece” of the data for its algorithm “from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users,” Shum said,

If some anonymous Google employee submitted the nonsense search result to Bing in hopes that it might make the company look bad, then that would be on Google. That would certainly be unfair and nefarious. Is that what happened? It’s possible given that Bing does allow for anonymous data sharing by its customers. If I were Google, I’d want to know just how Bing got that search result in its own results. If I were Bing, I’d definitely want to make sure the problem isn’t with my own internal processes. Both companies have a reason to ensure the truth comes out on this one.