Is Microsoft cheating? Did Google use "click fraud?" And what's Yahoo up to, anyway?
Following a months-long sting operation, Google took a swing at Microsoft on Tuesday, claiming the company was copying results from Google for its Bing search engine. The search giant said Microsoft was sucking data from Google's search results and using them to -- put nicely -- inform its own search engine.
Microsoft just slapped back.
In a blog posting titled "Setting the record straight," Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi, senior veep in the Online Services Division, said it was by no means cheating -- and Google was the one playing fast and loose with the rules.
"In simple terms, Google’s 'experiment' was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as click fraud. That’s right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results," he wrote.
Google has been engaging in click fraud? Interesting. But that's not all.
"We have brought a number of things to market that we are very proud of -- our daily home page photos, infinite scroll in image search, great travel and shopping experiences, a new and more useful visual approach to search, and partnerships with key leaders like Facebook and Twitter," Mehdi wrote.
"If you are keeping tabs, you will notice Google has 'copied' a few of these."
Strong words indeed, but an understandable response to Google's Amit Singhal, who oversees the search engine’s ranking algorithm. He made his position crystal clear to FoxNews.com on Tuesday: “Our testing has concluded that Bing is copying Google web search results,” Singhal told FoxNews.com.
Google grew wary of potential copycats in October, 2010, when engineers noticed that bizarre misspellings were returning the same set of results on both Google and Bing searches.
Unsure, but suspicious, Google set up a trap. From December 17 to December 31, engineers inserted a “honeypot” result as the top result for specific search queries -- including, hiybbprqag, mbzrxpgiys, and indoswiftjobinproduction -- and waited to see if the same results would appear on Bing. Lo and behold, the identical results popped up.
"It's cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years -- but they just get there based on our hard work,” a frustrated Singhal told Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog Search Engine Land. “I don't know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it's like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line."
So who can mediate when two of the biggest search engines battle? Thank heavens for Stephen Colbert.
The comedian entered the fray Wednesday night, with a tongue in cheek definition of "hiybbprqag," one of the nonsense words Google used to spring its trap.
"Evidently, ‘hiybbprqag’ is a word meaning, you got served," he joked.