Google engineers have approached SearchEngineLand.com to show that Bing is actually copying Big G's search results in some cases.
In an operation that some are starting to call Bing Sting, Google engineers planted a fake page into obscure queries that neither engine had results for. Shortly thereafter, the same links began appearing on many of Bing's pages.
Google's curiosity was initially stoked when misspelled entries on its own engine began spitting out the same top links on Bing. Big G figured that Microsoft was somehow spying on Google searches to beef up its own results, so the Bing Sting was set into action.
The theory says that Microsoft is keeping tabs of Google.com through either Bing's toolbar or Internet Explorer's "suggested sites" tracking feature. In theory, Bing can out-Google Google by tracking the links that searchers ultimately click on in their queries.
Is this legal? Is this ethical? Is Bing even guilty? We've only heard one side of the sting operation.
Even if it's on the up and up, Bing's reputation may take a hit. Microsoft has spent lavishly on a marketing campaign to set itself apart from Google. How ironic would it be if positioning Bing as a "decision engine" means basing it on the decision of Google.com searches? Then again, if it's leaning on the world's leading search engine to generate superior results, won't consumers gravitate to the engine standing on the shoulder of giants?
The timing of the findings can't be a coincidence. Bing is hosting a search industry event tonight. Tripping Bing up before it gains more momentum is a sound tactical extension of its tech-savvy.
The industry is changing. AOL (NYSE: AOL ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , and IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI ) Ask.com are either outsourcing their search results or have repositioned their portals. This leaves Bing -- which now also powers search queries through Yahoo! -- in an important position as the alternative to Google.
Having two strong competing engines is a good thing. When Google took a step back in China last year, critics feared that it would make Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) too powerful and slow the Web's development in China. That doesn't appear to have happened, but it's still too early to tell.
Bing can't afford to fall behind. It's already under criticism for its monetization prowess. Yahoo! alluded to Bing's weak ad matching in its latest quarter. Local.com (Nasdaq: LOCM ) shares plunged 25% last month after it blamed Bing in lowering its guidance.
Say it ain't so, Bing.
What do you think of Bing's search engine? What are you expecting out of Microsoft in this week's quarterly report? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.