SiliconFilter

Hiybbprqag: Google Claims Bing is Copying its Search Results (Updated)

/

There is a major scandal brewing in the tech world this morning that has the potential to greatly tarnish the reputation of Bing, Microsoft’s Google-challenger. According to Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan, Google thinks that Microsoft is copying some of its search results. That’s about as serious an allegation as there can be in the search engine world. In an early statement, Stefan Weitz, Microsoft’s director of Bing does not deny this and told Sullivan that Bing uses “multiple signals and approaches” when thinking about ranking.

So what happened? According to Search Engine Land, Google noticed that some of Bing’s search results looked more and more like Google’s over the last few months. In order to test this theory, Google set up a sting operation. Starting in mid-December, Google engineers used laptops that ran Internet Explorer and with both the Suggested Sites and Bing Toolbar turned on to search for around 100 terms that were either made up or barely ever searched for. Among these terms were nonsense words like hiybbprqagindoswiftjobinproduction and mbzrxpgjys. Most of these returned either none or very poor results on Google and none on Bing.

[notification type=”alert”] Update: Microsoft just published an official reaction on the Bing blog, acknowledging that it uses” the clickstream data we get 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.”

Harry Shum, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Bing, argues that Google created this controversy as a publicity stunt: “What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment.”

[/notification]

Hiybbprqag bing 1

Google then set up fake search results for these terms that were accessible over the Internet but, given the nature of the search terms, would never be seen by real users. After just two weeks of running this experiment on these laptops with the Bing toolbar and IE’s Suggested Sites feature turned on, Bing started to return the exact same results for the terms used in Google’s honeypot sting. It’s important to note that this only happened for 7 out of the 100 terms Google experimented with.

Using IE, Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar to Copy Google Search Results

How did this happen? The likely explanation for this is that Bing uses the signals it gets from users who use the Bing Toolbar and Suggested Sites features to enhance its own search results. So whenever somebody who has these tools installed searches on Google, Bing gets this information. As Sullivan points out, this is perfectly within the realm of Microsoft’s privacy policy, but most users are likely not aware of it. Basically, Bing looks at what Internet Explorer users are clicking on when they use Google and then molds its own search results accordingly.

While that’s oddly clever and likely benefits Bing’s users, it also doesn’t feel right at all. The evidence, as presented by Google, is clearly damning for Bing. We expect to hear more from Microsoft about this over the course of the day and will update this post as warranted.



9:42 am


Microsoft Brings OneNote to the iPhone – Can the Rest of Office be Far Behind?

/

OneNote is the unsung hero of Microsoft’s Office suite. The note-taking application allows Windows users (there is no Mac version yet) to quickly take notes during lectures or meetings, record audio, and compile images, videos and scanned documents into virtual binders. Starting today, OneNote is also available on the iPhone. The app marks the first time Microsoft has released a native iPhone version of one of its Office products.

For a limited time, the app will be available for free (iTunes link). It’s not clear how much Microsoft plans to charge for OneNote once at the end of the introduction period.

Features

OneNote on the iPhone allows users to quickly take notes and create checklists – or mix the two together in one document. You can also add images, though the app does not currently support videos. All of this, of course, is also synced to Microsoft’s Office web apps and accessible through SkyDrive.

Office Exec - Starting today, OneNote Mobile for iPhone helps free your ideas.jpg

Sadly, there is no iPad version of OneNote yet, though the iPad would obviously be the perfect device for an app like this.

As a first attempt at bringing its Office products to iOS, OneNote is a valiant attempt. It’s got just enough features to make it useful, without trying to add too much functionality in the mix. Its design is open enough to make it useful for taking quick notes on the go and for accessing your lecture or meeting notes on the phone.

On the other hand, though, OneNote for iPhone is not a substitute for a fully-featured task manager like ToDo or OmniFocus.

Will More Office Apps Follow?

The question, of course, is if Microsoft plans to bring more of its Office apps to iOS. Microsoft already offers Office for the Mac (and the latest version is probably the best one so far). In his blog post today, Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft VP in charge of Office, notes that “whether it’s on a PC or Mac, a mobile phone, or online through the Office Web Apps on multiple browsers, we continue to bring Office to the devices, platforms, and operating systems our customers are using. It should be about the ideas and information, not the device, right?” To us, this sounds like we can expect some support for the rest of the Office suite on iOS in the future.



11:20 am


The Microsoft Tanker Has Turned and You Ignore it at Your Own Peril

/

Whenever I hear people discussing Microsoft, it usually doesn’t take long before somebody mentions that the Redmond-based giant is like a huge oil tanker. It takes a while to turn such a huge company around and get it back on track. When Microsoft stumbled after the dotcom boom and couldn’t even produce a viable browser to compete with the open-source offerings of Mozilla, quite a few pundits assumed that the age of Microsoft was about to come to an end (the less said about the disaster that was Windows Vista, the better).

Microsoft Today

Flash forward to late 2010. Windows 7 is a huge success. Internet Explorer 9 has the potential to be one of the best browsers on the market. Windows Phone 7 is about to be released (and after seeing it in action during a short trip to Redmond earlier this week, I’m convinced that it will be a huge hit). Bing is bringing much-needed competition to the search engine market. Windows Live is becoming a great little social media aggregator for its users and a central hub for all of Microsoft online consumer tools. Hotmail – as much as it is ignored by the tech press – is still one of the most popular email services on the planet and continues to quietly innovate. The Windows Live Essentials desktop tools can easily hold their own in comparison with Apple’s tools. The Office Web apps easily beat the offerings of Microsoft’s competitors in both design and functionality.

What’s interesting is that most of these apps and services are only one or two iterations removed from really horrible products like Windows Mobile 6.5, Internet Explorer 7, Live Search.

Turning the Tanker Around

Spending some time earlier this week on the Microsoft campus, I couldn’t help but think that this is a very different Microsoft from the company we all loved to hate not too long ago. Instead of trying to build its own Facebook clone, for example, Microsoft is using Windows Live to aggregate other social networks. Just ten years ago, Microsoft would have never done that. Windows Phone 7 isn’t just a copy of the Android and iOS operating system and neither is it some weird adaptation of a desktop OS. Instead, Microsoft developed a vibrant new user interface based on its experience with the Zune (a good device, no matter how it failed in the marketplace) and the XBox.

Of course, there are still areas where Microsoft struggles (and the Kin was quite a disaster), but it’s hard not to think that the tanker has now turned and is sailing ahead at full steam.



10:34 pm