Who knew the world of search engines was filled with such suspense and intrigue? Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land has published a rather interesting piece about a "sting operation" Google ran to determine if Bing was aping its search results. The results of the operation appear damning, as does Microsoft’s official response quoted in the story.
I recommend reading the article for all the dirt and details, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Google, which prides itself on having the best misspelling correction system around, noticed that Bing was showing awfully similar top results for misspelled searches. Suspecting foul play, Google manually inserted a "honeypot" page as the top result for 100 "synthetic" searches that actual, real-world users would be highly unlikely to carry out. Allegedly, Bing started producing identical results for some of those searches within a couple of weeks.
The response from Bing Director Stefan Weitz does little to exculpate Microsoft. Weitz told Sullivan, "Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This ‘Google experiment’ seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals." Not much of a denial, is it?
Sullivan’s story makes it clear that Google isn’t happy with what Microsoft is doing, but it stops short of revealing what the search giant plans to do about the matter. Whatever happens, I can’t help but feel like we’re reaching a sort of convergence in web search, now that Yahoo uses Bing for its results, and Bing is possibly aping Google.