Microsoft Live Search Suggestions Stealing Google Queries? Or is it Firefox?

I gave a presentation on duplicate content at Pubcon yesterday. The panel I was on was well received, and Barry Schwartz covered the session at Search Engine Round Table: Duplicate Content Issues (Yahoo & Google). Joe Duck also has some thoughts about the session: Pubcon Las Vegas – Duplicate Content Session with Google and Yahoo. I’ve had a chance to meet some new folks, and say hello to some old friends. The Conference has been a real pleasure so far.

Predictive Searches

A new patent application from Microsoft describes a process that sounds very much like how Google Suggest works.

It presents suggestions for alternative queries as someone is typing a search term into a search box, much like the process I described in a post this last December titled Can Google Read Your Mind? Processing Predictive Queries.

But there’s an odd twist to it.

Stolen Google Queries

You can see query suggestions in action at Microsoft’s Windows Live search (now Bing), and when I tried a few minutes ago, I was surprised by the suggested terms I saw. I can’t recall the last time I used Microsoft’s search on my laptop, but it’s definitely been a while. As I started entering a term into Window’s Live Search, query terms I used in Google started appearing. A couple of those terms were from earlier today, and more of them were from months ago.

Some information about the patent application:

System and method for automatic generation of suggested inline search terms

Invented by James Dai
Assigned to Microsoft Corporation
US Patent Application 20060259479
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2005


A system and related techniques detect the initiation of a user’s search input and monitor that input character-by-character, to generate suggested search terms on the fly.

Arbitration logic may monitor the user’s keyboard of other entry of search or query terms at a Web search site or other search engine or resource, and examine that input along with stored query history or usage data on a real-time basis to predict or infer search terms which the user is attempting to transmit. Spelling corrections may likewise be made.

According to embodiments, the arbitration logic and/or query history or usage data may be hosted in the user’s machine, in the search service itself or in other resources. As the arbitration logic generates suggested search terms in inline fashion, those search suggestions may be presented to the user in real-time, for example by way of a wordwheel, drop-down or other dialog or interface.

The user may for example choose to select one of the set of search suggestions before completing the typing or other inputting of their search data, and in embodiments may edit those suggestions in real-time as well.

According to embodiments in a further regard, the user may provide configuration inputs to the automatic inline search suggestion feature, for example to turn that capability on or off on a per-session, per-search, permanent or other basis.

One of the areas that the patent mentions it looks to for suggestions was “query history.” For some reason, I expected “query history” to be something that would be unique to the individual search engine, and that it would only be collected when I was logged on to a personalized search system.

It appears that I’m wrong about having to be signed in for a search engine to track query history. And I also appear to be wrong in that the query history collected would be unique to a search engine.

As I note above, Microsoft Live suggested my Google queries. Would it work the other way around?

Transferable Query History?

I performed a search in Windows Live for a term that I don’t believe I ever searched for before on a search engine. I then went to Google Suggest, and started typing in the first couple of letters of the that word to see if it would suggest my Windows Live search term.

It did.

I was using Firefox (Version when I saw my query history being transferred easily from one search suggestion service to another. I jumped to Internet Explorer, and attempted to replicate my results. It didn’t work. It appears that Firefox maintains a search query history that IE doesn’t. It appears that Firefox has a built in search suggestion feature


Author: Bill Slawski

Share This Post On