Friday, February 4, 2011

Bing is copying Google Results by Monitoring User Behavior from IE8

Most of us have heard about Microsoft (henceforth MS) "copying" Google SERP results.  The most disturbing aspect of the story to me is that it appears MS is monitoring user behavior from Internet Explorer


look similar to this synthetic result by google (no relation to search query)?

This is different from most companies that will monitor behavior if you have a toolbar or are currently on their site.  Some developers call this effect "sandboxing" where one site cannot monitor your activity across the other sites that you're utilize your browser for.  MS is apparently copying Google's results by monitoring user behavior on Google when surfing with Internet Explorer with the "Suggested Sites" feature on.  In other words, Ineternet Explorer makes note of what you click on and searched for when you run a google search.  What isn't clear is the scope of user activity they are monitoring, if this isn't limited to just Google, I would strongly suggest users find another browser. 

I always suggest forgoing toolbars unless they serve a very specific purpose.  Like Ninja Tickets' "Live Results" toolbar, which would help run a real time search to find the latest event ticket results across multiple sites.  The sad irony is that our toolbar was incorrectly flagged as spyware by certain programs whereas, it appears, both the "Suggested Sites" feature and the "Bing Toolbar" are actually spyware.

Microsoft should utilize Bing as the default home screen for IE8 rather than MSN.com if they are serious about competing with Google.  The MSFT I knew from the 1990s would never back down from a bold decision like that.  They should also focus on their own algorithms.  There are really cool Search Algorithms out there that haven't been implemented yet and Bing should attempt to implement them, not copy Google.

There's even room to compete aggressively in aggregated/combined vertical search.  Perhaps Microsoft should focus on building out featuresets.  Google is lagging on; for example, event ticket search or travel ticket search where algorithms intelligently identify a vertical search and apply special rules and databases.  This is the future of search and Microsoft is copying the current using questionable methods rather than building out for new opportunities.  It's not as if MS doesn't have money for R&D or M&A.

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