The spat between Google and Bing over "copied" search results has died down somewhat, but there were still some questions left. Google accused Microsoft of using its Bing Toolbar to check out what people were searching and clicking on, in Google. Google also has a toolbar, but it now says that, while it too can see what users do on Bing, it doesn't use that data as a search signal.
A couple of weeks ago, Google came out in full force, basically accusing Microsoft of 'stealing' its search results. The way it determined this was by setting up a trap for Bing.
It created manual rankings for a bunch of random keywords, very unlikely to occur naturally. Google's engineers then started doing searches for those keywords, in Internet Explorer with the Bing Toolbar installed.
Sure enough, after a while, some of those queries on Bing started returning the first result that Google did, which was put there by hand in the first place. To Google, this was clear evidence of copying.
But Microsoft didn't quite see it that way. It acknowledged that it can track user behavior, with their approval, and it does track usage on Google as well. Since it can see the query and the result that the user selects, the data can be valuable of its own ranking in Bing.
But the point is that Bing doesn't directly copy Google results, it looks at what the users prefer. Of course, most of the time, this will be the number one entry on Google, the search engine wouldn't be doing its job if it weren't.
This leads us to the Google Toolbar. Since it too can track user behavior, there was the question whether Google didn't do the exact same thing as Bing.
"We absolutely do not use search activity on other search engines to influence our search results," Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow who oversees the search algorithms, told Search Engine Land.
Google also vowed to make it clearer for users that browsing behavior is tracked, something that it criticised Bing for. Hopefully, the two companies can put this behind them and start focusing on improving their products, even if that means peeking over each other's shoulders sometimes.