The Importance of Bing Earnest

On the Official Google Blog, the tech company has accused Microsoft’s Bing search engine of stealing its search results from Google. Other sites reproduce search engine results all the time, though it’s probably bad form if not illegal to reproduce them without credit whatsoever. Of interest in all this is the way Google caught the miscreants: with made-up words.

The engineers at Google created about 100 made-up words and phrases that real users were unlikely ever to come up with on their own, such as hiybbprqag. They then caused Google to return one or two particular, recognizable results for each query, such as a seating chart for a theater in Los Angeles for the above word. Using computers with fresh installations of Windows, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 browser, and the Bing Toolbar, they searched for the false words and phrases on Google and on Bing. After a few weeks, the exact results from Google started showing up on Bing. These words were not on the resultant pages themselves; the only pages on the entire Internet linking to these pages would have been those Google search results.

Google’s operative theory is that Microsoft uses the Bing toolbar or something else to monitor what users are searching for, even on other search engines such as Google.

This high-tech method of catching copycats has some decidedly low-tech precedents. Dictionaries, encyclopedias and even maps have a long tradition of fictitious entries, both for the lexicographers’ amusement and to provide evidence in case of copying. In 2005, it was leaked that the latest edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary had a false entry somewhere in the E’s. After quite a bit of detective work by a number of amateurs, the New Yorker reported that it had been discovered to be esquivalience.

esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.

After publication of the dictionary, the website fell for it, publishing the definition and citing Webster’s¹ New Millennium dictionary. (It’s not still up, sadly.) Such a fake entry, following the usage of the New Yorker article, has been termed a Mountweazel, after another such entry in the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia.

So it seems that Bing’s esquivalience made hiybbprqag a Mountweazel.

Link (Google blog)

Link (New Yorker article)

Extra credit (Wikipedia entry for Fictitious entry)

1. It may interest you to note that “Webster’s” is not trademarked for dictionary names. Any old fool can call his dictionary that, and many do. Don’t ever start a speech with “Webster’s defines compassion as…” — you will look ignorant and hackneyed.



Filed under Business, Language, Life and Arts, Technology

46 responses to “The Importance of Bing Earnest

  1. Websters (my old buddy from college), defines plagiarism as the direct, and un-cited, reproduction of another person’s work.
    He also enjoys defining Research (these are the things he talks about at parties, and are consequently why he is never invited to them), as the un-cited reproduction of many other people’s work, that is then put into the author’s own words.
    Bing did research!
    It’s OK…

  2. J Roycroft

    Congrats on FP

  3. no matter what…i stick with google. i always knew bing was fishy ;)

  4. Personally I find this all humorous. The Google vs Bing search war is kinda like East Coast vs West coast rap war without the guns. It’s all a lot of hot air.

    But what do I know? I am just a Greek blonde girl.



  5. Thanks for that last tidbit there. I had no idea anyone could use Webster as their own. Thanks!

  6. I find it funny that dictionaries stick fake entries in. I want to make up words and make them “official”! lol! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  7. Wow. First Google’s trouble in China, now they are going after Bing. What’s wrong with them? Besides everyone knows that Bing is awesome!

  8. anonnickus

    Great post. That there is copying out there is no revelation but noting the methodology of catching somebody at is to me. Bing should have paid more attention to Mad Magazine’s “Spy v/s Spy”.

  9. That’s the nature of the beast (internet).

  10. I’m not too fond of Bing… I’m a Google girl all the way

  11. nothing you can see

    Typical Microsoft style : Bill Gates has always been a master rip-off artist!
    I hate Bing anyways, and find that it c0mes nowhere near its ballyhoo-ed expectations!

  12. Interesting post. I had no idea that dictionaries had fake entries. If a word is in the dictionary, does it not become an actual word merely by it’s presence in the dictionary? Hmmm.
    I’m not a fan of Bing–much prefer Google.

  13. bing is so not up to date it takes forever at the moment to get things updated bing has loads to improve on they are teaming up with yahoo why dont they spend there time getting there search engin updated faster

  14. This is a very informative and amusing post. Well done.

  15. Nice post. Heard about the vandetta between those two. There’s no doubt that google gets more traffic than bing. Congrats on being fp

  16. New Columbia Encyclopedia added a fictitious entry for Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the 1975 edition? For the lexicographers’ jollies? Weirdos. I want my money back.

  17. Well written, thanks. Brief and to the point! Keep up the good work.

  18. Another Google girl here. I don’t think I’ve ever used Bing. Go kick Bing’s ass, Google!

  19. Bing did nothing wrong, ask the technicians, they know it. Basically, they use click data from everywhere to improve their search. Why their search results look like google’s is because google is, well, the most used search engine. They have a robust code, I’m sure, they don’t need to steal others’ results.

  20. Bing is just like Google with a different name

  21. I found the first Bing commerical to be creepy. You know the one where the girl is lookng for restaurants and her boyfriend is the vampire who wants a dark place? Google for life! I really don’t hear about many people I know saying that they’ll “Bing” something.

  22. In my youth I recall the so-called mature generation referring to my generation as being somewhat less in positive character traits, than our seniors from that time. Now that I am a Super Senior (69) I am concerned with observing that the charactistic of “ethics” seems to be a character trait without value to the current generation ( age range from 18-40).

  23. The real issue is if Bing is doing anything illegal by “stealing” the first-result. I’m not sure it is, but it’s sure underhanded… It’s all got to do with patents on intellectual property like search-engine-algorithms…. if the Bing algorithm is “First result, steal from Google; Second+ results, use algorithm” that might open up a can of worms….

  24. Carla

    I have always used Google and been frustrated to hell with the crap on there. You look up quotes from so and so and it gives you salesman quotes or quotes for your car. Waste of time. What made me change to Bing was Google started using my town on the side of the screen. If I was looking for yoga it would give me places in my area. How the hell do they know where I live? That’s creepy as hell.

    Bing is better, not so intrusive and redundant.

  25. Hm, I had no idea. Very interesting article.

  26. Google it.
    Bing it.

    The first one sounds better. I’ll stick to Google. :)

  27. Sam

    You’re a gay fish.

  28. Bing sucks~ Not only bing; but almost all products of Microsoft including Internet Explorer (the one they themselves make users to be aware of when it comes to security), Windows and many more. The only thing that I like about Microsoft is its office suite. Nothing else.

  29. Very interesting post. Personally I just don’t understand how there is a market for any search engine other than Google…

  30. And in some small, dark, barren room, Yahoo sits patiently, waiting for both these powerhouses to take each other out.

  31. Miz D

    Congrats on FP nod. And congrats on writing about this pissing match in a way that I can understand. The wire story was over my head. Or maybe I’m just partial to bloggers. For my 2 cents, I still hate Bill Gates and anything he or his company does has an aroma to it. Google all the way.

  32. I’m not keen on Google, but I tend to use it out of necessity. I used to use Bing as exclusively as possible until we started having internet issues with our computer and it affected our Bing results.

    I don’t use the verb “to google” because by its very use, you’re denoting something ubiquitous, and I’d love nothing more than the day Google is taken down several pegs in the search engine world. One day it will happen.

    On an aside, your font choice is very distracting and does not lend to site readability. I realize it’s supposed to look like old typeset, as from an old manual typewriter. Maybe you can make it darker?

  33. Guess this means I can stick to google. No need to Bing myself.

  34. Should We nominate “bing” as the “wimp” of 2011 :P, it would sound nice though !….”bing the wimp” tada…

  35. Summer

    wow, i never knew that! the making up word thing is so cool!

  36. Whatever. I’m sticking with AltaVista.

  37. I was wondering about that!
    While the wiki-search-engine-project proposed a different search-strategy, I was frankly baffled as to what new contribution Bing would bring.
    As it appears: None.

  38. Its amazing to me that Bing tried to defend itself and say that they were not stealing. When Google so obviously proved they were.

  39. no doubt, bing was created overnight.

  40. BIng is a copycat. However I think they are using some of the same strategies as google that is why they are coming up with similar results. I think they copycat allot of search engine and sites.

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