Analysis: Is Bing really stealing Google’s search result?


So Google says Bing stole their search result.
Bing says, they got the results from their users.
‘Is that the same as stealing?’, I asked myself.
It might not be legally considered stealing, but it could be morally considered that way

A part of me thinks that is one hell of a clever legal maneuvering.
The other part says ‘what a clever way to improve search result!’

So let us hypothetically replace the ‘users’ with ‘bots’?

A search engine receives a request, displays an okay-but-not-better-than-google's result.
The search engine has a script running in the background that ‘improves’ the search result: it's doing that by feeding in all previous requests into a browser, search for the keyword on Google and have the result submitted back for improvement into the search engine.

When we get rid of users from the picture, has it changed anything?
Most will think that yep, it's a straight forward caught-wet-handed stealing from the candy store kinda scenario.

But hold on’¦.

Back in the old days of Yahoo! and AltaVista, we rely on real people to categorize web pages. Just like what we did with our yellow pages. You call'em up and register yourself and then your site started showing up on the directory. Search result optimization was done manually through curation by the admins and users.

Google then comes along and rocked the world with PageRank. It introduced a way to automatically curates web pages by its relationship with other web pages. It keeps an eye on the world wide wild web, mines the data and use that for search result optimization.

Bing does it ‘slightly’ differently, its algorithm (which has apparently more than 1000 factors to improve search, and one of them) is based on users activity including search activity on its and other search engines : it learns from what users actually clicked on. What it really does is: It tracks real user's behavior, mines the data and use that for search result optimization.

Now the two doesn't seem no different anymore, does it?

The grey area here is while Google is learning from consensual web pages (through the agreement that is robots.txt), Bing is learning from competing products albeit from consensual users.

Is this stealing? what do you think?

  1. clibou says:

    In academic circles it's stealing. In commercial circles its accepting given gifts. Did Robin Hood always ask for permission before? Was Robin Hood good or evil? Dilemmas! Sometimes you need to pay for answers. The name "PageRank" is a trademark of Google, and the PageRank process has been patented (U.S. Patent 6,285,999). However, the patent is assigned to Stanford University and not to Google. Google has exclusive license rights on the patent from Stanford University. The university received 1.8 million shares of Google in exchange for use of the patent; the shares were sold in 2005 for $336 million. [begin hack] The name "Bing" is a trademark of Microsoft, and the 'BingRank' process has been (probably been) patented (U.S. Patent x,xxx.yyy). However, the patent (more than likely) was assigned to PARC who license it to Powerset company and not to Bing. Bing has exclusive license rights on the patent from Powerset. PARC received XX million shares of Microsoft in exchange for use of the patent; the shares were sold in 20xx for $yyy million.] [end hack]

  2. ronaldwidha says:

    rightly said. Putting trademark and intellectual property law/economics aside I feel that Bing is doing the same extension of logic that is used in Google's algorithm - it learns from other "sources". That source could be webpages or user behaviors.