Microsoft vs. Google: Tech's celeb feud of the month

The tech giants' ongoing bickering over who messed with whose search results is amusing but pointless

It's been difficult to look away as Google and Microsoft exchange shots over, oh, let's call it SearchSwipeGate. It's rather like watching a pair of celebutantes argue indirectly via Twitter and press releases over who stole whose boyfriend of the month -- that is, pointless yet amusing.

To recap: Google accused Microsoft of stealing its search results to improve queries on Bing. Microsoft initially said, "Yes, we do that." But after getting bad press on important shows such as "The Colbert Report," Microsoft realized it needed to change strategies.

Microsoft's new strategy has been to take the offensive, marrying a thrilling conspiracy theory with powerfully loaded words. In an interview with USA Today, a Microsoft exec accused Google engineers of engaging in "click fraud" (as in "the nefarious practice of cyber criminals") late at night to trick Bing into associating totally nonsensical strings of characters with real websites -- while "sipping merlot" no less (merlot, of course, being the beverage of choice among the snottiest and most duplicitous of intellectual elites).

Does Microsoft use Google's search results to hone Bing search results? Probably. Did Google engineers game Bing to associate strings of characters such as "xlgr493" with kittycat.com? Possibly. Did they knowingly sip merlot while doing so? That may depend on your definition of "sip."

But the most important question is, should we care? I'd have to vote no here. If Bing were simply a shell for Google's search engine, Google would have every right to cry "Foul!" But if Microsoft is factoring freely available information about Google searches into its overall search results -- and in the process delivering better results than Google -- than there's neither harm nor foul. That's how the tech industry functions: You capitalize and build on what's free for the taking.

This story, "Microsoft vs. Google: Tech's celeb feud of the month," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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