Sunday, February 06, 2011

Google v Bing: The Hiybbprqag Affair | James Gleick

Excerpt from a Google/Bing perspective

I believe we have something important to learn from this affair, but not so much about the relative ethics of the people at Microsoft and Google. It’s time to learn a lesson about the surfstream. We define the surfstream as the aggregate of everybody’s clickstream. The clickstream is everything, more or less, that you type. The gaggle of Googlers typing hiybbprqag made one fleeting, minuscule contribution to the surfstream. A drop in the ocean.

One chunk of the surfstream is the aggregate of people’s searches on Google. It’s a big and valuable and informative chunk, and you can see why Google would resent Microsoft’s making use of it, even if Google itself monitors clickstream data through its own toolbar. Is Microsoft looking over Google’s shoulders? Indirectly, yes, but I think it’s more accurate to say that it’s looking over our shoulders. It is watching Internet users, en masse—everyone, that is, who breezes through this innocent-looking dialog box:

Google v Bing: The Hiybbprqag Affair | James Gleick

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