Google is accusing Microsoft of cheating as the two duel for Internet search supremacy, but Microsoft denies the charge, saying it's just using all the tools available to lessen its rival's dominance.
The dust-up between the two companies that process much of the world's search requests grabbed the spotlight Tuesday at an event sponsored by Microsoft about the future of Internet searches. Microsoft's practices have even wider implications now that its technology powers Yahoo Inc. searches in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil and Mexico.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web spam team, said the company noticed last year that Bing was returning search results that seemed a little too close to Google's own—especially for obscure, misspelled queries.
Google suspected Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser and various toolbars and plug-ins were feeding information back to Microsoft that would help Bing's results become more Google-like.
And so, Google laid a trap. The company made a list of gibberish or obscure search terms and manually linked them to unrelated websites. Then, 20 Google engineers took home laptops loaded with Internet Explorer, searched Google.com for those terms and clicked on the artificial results. Soon after, searching for the same odd terms on Bing would call up the same odd results.
Cutts likened the trap to a mapmaker drawing a fake street or the Yellow Pages adding a fake name to its directory to flush out copycats.