Friday, 4 February, 2011

The Bing vs Google Story: An interesting analogy

So its become quite fad these days - discussing the big controversy where Google alleges Bing of using Google search results to improve their own search service.

The Story
So to cut a long story short, Google believed Bing was secretly making use of their search results to improve its own service; and ran a 'sting operation' to prove this behavior. They created an artificial result for a search query ("hiybbprqag") that originally returned no results, and tweaked their index to return a hand crafted result that had no relationship to the original query.

A few days later, searches on Bing for the same keyword returned the same results that Google did (Here's the whole story). As expected, Google claims this is unethical behavior and would like this practice to stop.

Microsoft's Take
Microsoft responded quite strongly, stating that
"To be clear, we learn from all of our customers. 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. But it doesn’t accurately portray how we use opt-in customer data as one of many inputs to help improve our user experience."
- Harry Shum, Bing Corporate Vice President

Bing - a better way to Google?
But with all this controversy around, the popular opinion indeed is that Bing copies results from Google. This video on College Humor probably says it best:
"Bing helps you Google the best choice, faster. And shows related Googles right there on the results page. Bing knows what you like to Google."

An interesting Analogy
Here is an interesting analogy that I came across, of the events of this entire Bing-Google episode:
The Bing Cafe head chef is waiting at his usual bus stop and overhears someone saying
"Hey, I had unusual dish X with unusual ingredient Y last night, and it was pretty good."

But he doesn't think anything of it, because nobody ever asks for unusual dish X at the Bing Cafe.

Until one day, voila! Someone comes in and orders off-menu: dish X!

The chef has never made dish X before, but he remembers that unusual bus stop conversation and decides to try to make dish X with unusual ingredient Y.

And then the customer peels off his fake moustache and says
"Aha, gotcha! That was *our* idea, at the Google Deli across the street! *We* invented the idea of making dish X with Y!"

And he explains to his dining companion, the local restaurant reviewer, that they sent twenty people to the chef's bus stop to *deliberately* have conversations in front of him, and a whopping *7%* of the time, the chef later made dishes with the unusual ingredients they mentioned. And the local restaurant reviewer, who isn't entirely clear whether 7% of dishes ordered by 20 people is a big or small number, presses his editor to make this "scandal" a front-page story.

And the editor isn't good at math or ethics either, but it's a slow news day in their town, so voila: Front page news.

So then a reporter asks Bing Cafe chef about the article and he says
"Huh? That's ridiculous. I'm not reselling Google Deli food at the Bing Cafe."

And then he reads the article, and he says "You gotta be kidding me. The Google Deli has been deliberately sending spies to my bus stop?"

And the chef tries to respond, but hey, it turns out that today is the opening day of the "Whipped Cream Pie Convention", and soon there are pies flying through the air so that everyone is messy and nobody wins, except for the Keystone Kops Production Company, who have diligently filmed the whole thing for your internet viewing pleasure.