Copygate Update

Google made waves recently when – after a “sting operation,” which clearly consisted of high intrigue, Bourne Ultimatum-style search maneuvers – it accused Microsoft’s Bing of copying its search results. Google clearly believed itself to be in the right, but their fierce objections are meeting with a tide of anti-Google sentiment. While Google enjoys more than two-thirds of the search market share, many are saying that the giant has gone a bit too far in criticizing Bing and could face backlash.

Yusuf Mehdi responded to Google’s claims of copying search results by saying, “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 coincidental?” While this could be taken as simple posturing, the numbers seem to back up Mehdi’s claim, at least somewhat.

According to Experian Hitwise, Google owned 68 percent of searches in January.  Impressive to say the least.  But, it is a 2 percent decline from the previous month. Bing and Bing-powered sites boosted their share by 6 points, owning 27.4 percent of the market. CNET’s Lance Whitney writes, “Launching such a sting operation could be a sign that Google is growing more concerned about Microsoft’s rising chunk of the search engine market.” In fact, CEO Eric Schmidt also said that Microsoft is a bigger concern to Google than Facebook in terms of competition.

Adam Raff, cofounder and CTO of Foundem says Microsoft made, at the very least, “a mistake” using clickstream data to copy Google’s results. But, “They make it sound like a cheap form of spam where a site simply copies somebody else’s content wholesale and runs Google ads on it to monetize it. But of course, for any legitimate search service, the vast majority of its content will have been copied from others….In the context of a search engine, this kind of copying is not only legitimate, it is essential. The real hypocrisy here is that Google has started attacking vertical search services by suggesting that this perfectly legitimate form of copying is somehow legitimate for all vertical search services other than its own.”

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