Google’s Search Fellow Amit Singhal complained via Twitter that Bing was copying Google’s results.
That should tell you everything you need to know about the scale of this dispute: serious accusations of theft of intellectual property, even in Silicon Valley, are made in court.
But it would be wrong to suggest Google’s merely orchestrating a publicity stunt; rather this is a warning shot across the bows of rivals at Microsoft and beyond.
Every web company stands on the shoulders of preceding giants, but that can be taken too far.
When I interviewed Singhal last year at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, it was clear that his is an academic perspective as much as it is a commercial one.
My suspicion would be that his tweet is as much a product of intellectual irritation as it is from a desire to push Bing to admit that it’s not a radically original service.
The irony, however, is that both Google and Microsoft are rivals for top graduate talent: crucial to their success is the recruitment of top PhDs and graduate students and both of them realise that their businesses are built on a mixture of research and commercial application.
But the nature of search – still the core of Google’s business – is a monopoly business.
Nobody wants to search the web and then have to search it again: the site that provides the best answers first time is the one that you’ll make your homepage.
So it’s natural that Bing should look at what the dominant player is doing. The most academic aspect of computer science – the advancement of search – is meeting commercial reality head on.
Microsoft’s blog response say they’ll keep focused on the customers. Most customers, still, are focused on Google.