NYT: How Much Does Bing Borrow From Google?

Note that some of you more nerdy types are probably up to speed on this, but I'm sure there's plenty of folks who don't stalk Techmeme who might end up finding this so I'll explain the whole deal a bit.  (Disclaimer...I work in PR at Google!  Consider this my personal opinion, not that of my employer.)
A few days ago, Microsoft and their search engine Bing were caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  Some smart folks at Google noticed that Bing's "Search Quality" (how they rank results) was catching up to Google's fast - even on particularly difficult queries.  So...they set up a sting where they seeded a few bad results in Google, watched those same results rise to the top at Bing and then told a reporter about it.  Pretty cute!  The reports have been scathing on Bing.  "Google innovates, Bing copies", etc.

But the issue isn't that easy to understand for a lot of people.  That's where Nate Silver from the NYT comes in.  I think his description of the situation crystallizes this for everyone:
Imagine that you opened an Italian restaurant across the street from Mario Batali’s Lupa. It would be one thing if you merely took inspiration from Lupa’s spaghetti carbonara — if you tried to use some of the same ingredients and some of the same techniques. Maybe you’d even go so far as to track down the butcher who sells Mr. Batali his pancetta. All of this would be in the spirit, most of us would think, of good ol’ American competition.

But this is more like, when a customer orders the carbonara, sending a runner across the street to order a plate of it at Lupa, reheating it, and then maybe adding some mushrooms or snow peas. The alterations you made to the dish, whether slight or substantial, might not be all that likely to make it better: it would be hard to improve on Mr. Batali’s carbonara (if peas really made the dish yummier, wouldn’t he already have included them in the recipe?), just as it would be hard to improve on Google’s search results.

Bing/Google image courtesy of Rick from here.

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