By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm
I’m attending Farsight today in San Francisco. It’s an interesting conference on search, sponsored by Microsoft’s Bing but featuring participants from Google, Blekko, Wolfram Alpha, and other companies involved in the never-ending quest to make it easy to find stuff on the Web.
Oddly enough, the big news at the event doesn’t involve big news at the event–it concerns Google’s charge that Bing relays information about IE users’ Google searches back to Microsoft, which uses it to influence the results on Bing. Google confirmed the practice by running a sting operation involving “synthetic” search results for unusual searches, and says that Bing is “cheating.” Bing doesn’t deny anything, but says it’s not copying and that what it’s doing has only a minor effect on its results.
Search guru Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, who understands the implications of all this way better than I do, has an exhaustive story and promises more stuff to come. He comes to the conclusion that what Bing is doing is legal, and covered by IE’s terms of service, but that “Bing should develop its own search voice without using Google’s as a tuning fork.” Seems like a reasonable conclusion to me. And I have a hunch that Microsoft will come out of this concluding that it needs to stop doing this, for PR reasons if nothing else…