Coding Sanity

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Bing caught cheating

Microsoft has been caught out by Google stealing their search results. They noticed recently that Bings search results were more and more similar to Google’s and they came up with a hypothesis for why. They felt that IE9 was “dialling back” to Redmond with Google's search results, allowing them to indirectly copy Google. Microsoft have admitted that they have been using “clickstream data we get from some of our customers” to improve their search results, and accused Google of using “spy-novelesque stunts”.

There’s quite a few issues here so let’s unpick them.

Microsoft have done nothing illegal here. They’ve collected data that their customers have said they can collect and used that to improve their search results. That said, their toolbar by default opts users in to allowing Microsoft to collect this data, so that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Microsoft have invited themselves into your living room and are peering over your shoulder watching your searches, and using that to compete more effectively. Sure, you can ask them to leave, but it’s not a nice situation to discover.

One has to wonder about Microsoft’s claim to be an innovator now. It seems that this innovation is driven at least partially by just copying Google. They are different from scraping sites that republish other’s data only in the matter of degree, not in principle.

Whilst their actions are not illegal, they are by almost any definition unethical. A very good definition of ethical behaviour is that you would not be upset if your actions were on the front page of a newspaper. Microsoft’s now are, and they are being defensive and running for the hills. They’re trying to spin it that this data is just one of thousands of data streams they use to improve their results. Well that’s nice, that makes it okay then.

When a schoolchild sitting for a major test says that they only copied a few of the questions from the guy in front, does that make it acceptable? No, it does not. Firstly they were caught cheating, which is unacceptable behaviour and it leads inevitably to questions about where the other answers came from? Hidden notes? Also, what about other tests? Their entire history and character is now tainted with the epithet “cheat”.

This is where Microsoft find themselves. They have been caught cribbing off the other kids results and they’re trying to make out that it’s somehow honourable.

It absolutely is not. They would not be happy with similar behaviour from their kids.

Somebody needs to get fired for this, because if not, it would be an acceptance by Microsoft that “innovation” is just copying others; something we’ve seen them do way too often.

Companies that hold themselves to a lower ethical standard than cheating schoolchildren need to get smacked.

Print | posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2011 6:30 AM | Filed Under [ General Microsoft! ]



# re: Bing caught cheating

I think that your story about schoolchild is stupid, you can't resume this story with kids at school cheating. Bing use data sent back by customers, so, yeah, customer's data from google are used (google is the most used search engine isn't it?), but not only, it's from every website, not only google.... I though that google was not so ..... petty....... to say that MS steal their result for bing........ to make such a big deal for that...... You can do the same thing for every search engine, not only google, it's not google's result who are used but customer behavior. So if customer use google, some of google result will be used, but it's only a part of the algorithm, and to construct the situation (bad words with no result, many people in google who cliked on google's false website and ie who send all these information to bing, so in fact bing will used mostly this part of the algorithm) make me feel bad about google. Next time don't be so stupid and think a little about what is really under the hood. I only want the best result for my search, and i'm happy that they "learn" as they said from their customer and their used of google and other search engine.
2/2/2011 6:59 PM | Nick

# re: Bing caught cheating

I search Google in IE, and Bing then uses Google's results in their searches. That's about as close as I can think of to copying in a test.

What this results in is two search engines: one driving real innovation in searching, and the other copying the first one. How does that make sense? Where's the competition? Why not just sell Bing to Google, and have the results delivered at high speed rather than doing it by spying on IE users?
2/4/2011 10:51 AM | sean

# re: Bing caught cheating

> but not only, it's from every website, not only google

Yeah, that Bing ALSO copied results from OTHER search engines IS THE excuse.

Now, don't ever become a lawyer, because if you happen to defend someone accused of stealing an apple, he might get the chair.
4/10/2011 9:23 PM | corrector

# re: Bing is my one and only

Bing ,bing,bing is all I want to do my searching for me.
you can say what you want about bing,I dont care.
bing is the best searcher out there,and the one for me.
thank you
2/14/2012 12:24 AM | Skjo51

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