The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Feb. 4

5. Bing's Hand Caught In The Google Jar

One upshot from the so-called Searchgate drama between Google ( GOOG) and Microsoft's ( MSFT) Bing may be that search quality is only as good as Google makes it.

Google, which controls two-thirds of the total search market, created traps for Bing using phony words assigned phony search results. Using a mishmash like "delhipublicschool40 chdjob" as a search term, Google affixed an Ohio credit union site to the results that came back. Soon after, says Google, Bing's results for that query also turned up the same credit union.

Embarrassing for Microsoft, certainly, and scary for the rest of us since the perceived competition for the best search engine turns out to be little more than No. 2 copying No. 1.

Bing's public reaction to the sting bordered on amusement. Bing chief Harry Shum called it a "spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking" -- whatever that means. Shum didn't deny that Bing copied Google's search results; in fact he tried to put it in a larger we-are-all-on-the-same-team perspective in his blog post.

"The history of the Web and the improvement of a broad array of consumer and business experiences is actually the story of collective intelligence, from sharing HTML documents to hypertext links to click data and beyond. Many companies across the Internet use this collective intelligence to make their products better every day," Shum wrote.

Either way, Microsoft is doing what it has to do. And to some, Microsoft is doing what it has been known to do.

"This is par for the course," said one analyst who asked not to be named. "Microsoft has built a business model over 30 years of knocking off other companies. Why is this any different?"

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