Google, Bing in slap-fight over search results

But in the IT industry, isn’t reverse-engineering the sincerest form of flattery?

Earlier this week a battle of words erupted in less time than Punxsutawney Phil had to avoid seeing his shadow, and it had nothing to do with whether we we’re having six more weeks of winter.

Google blatantly, and withholding no punches, accused Microsoft of copying Google search results to use for its Bing search engine. Microsoft senior vice president of its Online Services Division Yusuf Mehdi came back in a blog entry and fervently denied the accusations, then went on to accuse Google of using the spammer tactic of “click fraud” to make Bing look bad.

Really? I mean, your name is an onomatopoeia for “gosh sakes.” How seriously did you want to be taken? Of course, “Google” sounds like baby-talk, so I guess it’s a toss-up as to which one sounds sillier.

Anyway, my point (yes, I suppose I have one) is that Mehdi’s response to the accusation of filching Google’s results should have been something more like, “Yeah? So what?”

Reverse-engineering is a time-honored tradition in this industry, going back to its beginning. (Compaq and IBM, anyone?) And, of course, Microsoft made it into an art form. Surely they wouldn’t be in the position of dominating all of these markets if someone else entirely hadn’t invented the spreadsheet, or the word processor, or the graphical user interface. And while there has been the occasional lawsuit, none of them even slowed the Microsoft juggernaut down much at all.

So what is different this time? Well, in the Internet search engine arena, they had a competitor that was far enough ahead to lay a trap that Microsoft fell right into.

Google says that its people added fake search results for terms made up entirely of nonsense strings of characters (such as “juegosdeben1ogrande”), and of course when those terms were searched on Bing, the exact same results came up as on Google. Microsoft was apparently caught red-handed. Google talks all about it on its blog.

So face it, Bing, you were caught with your hand in the honey pot this time. But don’t sweat it, because that’s the sort of thing that made this industry great. I think the real problem here is that you won’t cop to it.

I guess denial is the second greatest tradition in this industry. But you didn’t hear that from me.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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