Hiybbprqag: Did Google catch Bing cheating?

Bing is copying search results from Google, company reps alleged this week. The proof? Hiybbprqag.

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    Hiybbprqag is the (nonsense) word that proves Bing is cheating, according to Google reps. So what the heck is a Hiybbprqag?
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Hiybbprqag. It sounds like a rare cuisine or a complex chemical. But according to Google, Hiybbprqag is the nonsense word that proves that the team behind the Microsoft Bing search engine is cheating. In a statement released this week, Google's Amit Singhal alleged that Google engineers had long been suspicious that Microsoft was copying queries from Google results pages – including "rare or unusual queries and misspelled queries."

So Google decided to run what has been termed a "Bing Sting." "We created about 100 'synthetic queries' – queries that you would never expect a user to type, such as [hiybbprqag]," Singhal wrote on the official Google blog. "As a one-time experiment, for each synthetic query we inserted as Google’s top result a unique (real) webpage which had nothing to do with the query."

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A couple weeks later, Singhal added, "our inserted results started appearing in Bing." For example, a "search for [hiybbprqag] on Bing returned a page about seating at a theater in Los Angeles. As far as we know, the only connection between the query and result is Google’s result page." (If you're interested in reading a full account of the Bing Sting, check out Search Engine Land's long report.)

"We look forward to competing with genuinely new search algorithms out there – algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results from a competitor," Singhal writes. "So to all the users out there looking for the most authentic, relevant search results, we encourage you to come directly to Google. And to those who have asked what we want out of all this, the answer is simple: we'd like for this practice to stop."

Unsurprisingly, reps for Microsoft have strongly refuted Google's allegations. “We use multiple signals and approaches in ranking search results," Bing director Stefan Weitz told ZDNet. "The overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search so we can provide the most relevant answer to a given query." So is that an admission or a denial?

Pressed by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet on that precise point, Microsoft issued a second (and much simpler) reply: “We do not copy Google’s results."

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