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Microsoft lands big handbag on Google's copy kisser

Lady Redmond doth protest too much

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Microsoft's swung its biggest handbag yet in denying that Bing copies Google results, while adding that Bing has the internet's number-one search engine wetting its algorithms.

On Thursday, online services division senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi issued Microsoft's second executive denial to date of Google’s claim that Bing rips off Google.

"Let me clear up a few things once and for all," Mehdi opened in a post on Microsoft's Bing community site.

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting."

Except Microsoft's man went on to not exactly deny Google's claim, but instead tried to bury the importance of Bing's data-suck by saying it is just one among many techniques Microsoft uses to improve the quality of Bing returns.

"We do look at anonymous click stream data as one of more than a thousand inputs into our ranking algorithm," Mehdi said.

Mehdi's non-denial follows the earlier non-denial of his colleague, Bing corporate vice president Harry Shumn on the same Microsoft Bing community blog.

We assume Mehdi is in a different pay grade, so his non-denial comes with more weight, even though it's on the same blog.

Mehdi proceeds to dig Google for engaging in "'honeypot' attack" to “trick” Bing, and for rigging Bing's search results through a type of attack known as "click fraud."

He says: "What does all this cloak and dagger click fraud prove? Nothing anyone in the industry doesn't already know. As we have said before and again in this post, we use click stream optionally provided by consumers in an anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site might make sense to be in our index."

So, if it's been said before why did Mehdi need to say it again? We're not sure, either, but think it has something to do with the final paragraph in Mehidi's post.

It’s here that Mehdi finally makes the point he’s paid to make by delivering the higher-level competitive point missed by the more technical Schumm. Mehdi says:

We have been making steady, quiet progress on core search relevance. In October 2010 we released a series of big, noticeable improvements to Bing's relevance. So big and noticeable that we are told Google took notice and began to worry. Then a short time later, here come the honeypot attacks. Is the timing purely coincidence? Are industry discussions about search quality to be ignored? Is this simply a response to the fact that some people in the industry are beginning to ask whether Bing is as good or in some cases better than Google on core web relevance?

Maybe, Yusuf.

But if you're going to try to beat the web’s number one-search engine, you’re going to have to pull in at least some of the data from their map of the web. Stands to reason.

And let's be perfectly clear: the copying's not going one way. It's churlish of Google to play the foul card when last summer it blatantly refreshed its signature minimalist search page by giving people the option for some delicious Bing-like photo images as their search wallpaper. Google elsewhere has not been shy in copying the work of others - thanks for the iPhone idea, Steve.

But, really, we think Microsoft doth protest too much. Once is enough. Please step away from the handbags. ®

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