Charles Young

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Friday, February 4, 2011 #

I know I'm a bit of an MS fanboy at times, but please, am I missing something here? Microsoft, with permission of users, exploits clickstream data gathered by observing user behaviour. One use for this data is to improve Bing queries. Google equips twenty of its engineers with laptops and installs the widgets required to provide Microsoft with clickstream data. It then gets their engineers to repeatedly (I assume) type in 'synthetic' queries which bring back 'doctored' hits. It asks its engineers to then click these results (think about this!). So, the behaviour of the engineers is observed and the resulting clickstream data goes off to Microsoft. It is processed and 'improves' Bing results accordingly.
 
What exactly did Microsoft do wrong here?
 

Google's so-called 'Bing sting' is clearly a very effective attack from a propaganda perspective, but is poor practice from a company that claims to do no evil. Generating and sending clickstream data deliberately so that you can then subsequently claim that your competitor 'copied' that data from you is neither fair nor reasonable, and suggests to me a degree of desperation in the face of real competition.   Monopolies are undesirable, whether they are Microsoft monopolies or Google monopolies.    Personally, I'm glad Microsoft has technology in place to observe user behaviour (with permission, of course) and improve their search results using such data. I can only assume Google doesn't implement similar capabilities. Sounds to me as if, at least in this respect, Microsoft may offer the better technology.

[UPDATE]...and here a few links that support a similar perspective or at least offer an even-handed appraisal.  For the most part, they are clearly written by people better informed than me.  Incidently, I hadn't read any of these links before posting - any similarity really is coincidental.  I wasn't copying stuff from Google searches :-) 

http://googlewatch.eweek.com/content/google_vs_microsoft/microsofts_mehdi_plays_pot_meet_kettle_with_google.html

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110201/11022312911/googles-childish-response-to-microsoft-using-google-to-increase-bing-relevance.shtml

http://www.itworld.com/internet/136002/googles-copying-accusation-called-silly

http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/feb2011/ca2011024_853469.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71771.html

http://technorati.com/technology/article/googles-bing-sting-bears-fruitbut-is/

http://blog.moertel.com/articles/2011/02/02/the-google-microsoft-squabble-over-bing-results-some-completely-uninformed-speculation

http://willwhim.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/is-bing-cheating-at-search/