Setting the record straight

I was unable to attend the Farsight conference yesterday but
watched events unfold online and wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts
and make sure everyone is clear about a few things.

It was interesting to watch the level of protest and feigned outrage from
Google. One wonders what brought them to a place where they would level these
kinds of accusations.

Before we explore that, let me clear up a few things once and for all.

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.

We do look at anonymous click stream data as one of more than a thousand
inputs into our ranking algorithm. We learn from our customers as they traverse
the web, a common practice in helping to improve a wide array of online
services. We have been clear about this for a couple of years (see Directions on
Microsoft report, June 15, 2009).

Google engaged in a “honeypot” attack to trick Bing. In simple terms,
Google’s “experiment” was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a
type of attack also known as “click fraud.” That’s right, the same type of
attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus
search results.  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.

Now let’s move the conversation to what might really be going on behind the

Bing was launched nearly two years ago to break new ground and help move the
search industry in new directions. We have brought a number of things to market
that we are very proud of — our daily home page photos, infinite scroll in
image search, great travel and shopping experiences, a new and more useful
visual approach to search, and partnerships with key leaders like Facebook and
Twitter. If you are keeping tabs, you will notice Google has “copied”
a few of these
. Whether they have done it well we leave to customers. But
more importantly, we take no issue and are glad we could help move the industry
to adopt some good ideas.

At the same time, 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?

Clearly that’s a question that will continue in heated debate as long as
there is a search industry. Here at Bing we will continue to focus on our
customers, and try to provide some great innovation for consumers and the

Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Services Division