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Stop thief!

Well, isn't this exciting? There's a full-blown war of words going on between Microsoft and Google. Google have accused Microsoft's Bing search engine of copying their search results!

They put their case at the start of the week to Search Engine Land, a popular blog about search (yes, some people want to read about search all day). They say that they noticed in October that Microsoft was sometimes getting the same result as Google for a misspelled search result, even though Bing wasn't always noticing and correcting the misspelling.

Google started to suspect that Microsoft were milking Google's search results through Internet Explorer's Bing toolbar. So they introduced some special code which produced artificial results for 20 random strings of letters, and got some of their engineers to perform that search and click the top result once a day - with the Bing toolbar installed. And, lo and behold, within a few weeks Bing started showing the same top results for those weird searches.

Now, once the story broke on Tuesday, Microsoft issued a fierce denial. Then Google responded, and Bing responded back, and two senior staff from Google and Microsoft faced off at a conference.

So is it true? Well, kinda-sorta, was the conclusion eventually reached by Search Engine Land. It seems Microsoft do track searches done by users with the Bing toolbar, and track these results to help - along with lots of other things - to improve their search results. Because a lot of people search with Google, that means a lot of Google search data goes in, but lots of other Amazon stuff as well.

Does that count as copying Google's results? It comes down to definitions, really. Google look a little prissy, Microsoft look a little crooked... everyone's a loser!

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