The Noisy Channel

 

And Bing’s Strongest Vertical Is…Kayak?

June 25th, 2009 · 7 Comments · General

Many people (myself included) have said that Bing’s strongest vertical is travel. And a number have noted the striking similarity between Bing’s travel search and Kayak.

David Radin:

This feels so much like Kayak that without asking, I assumed Microsoft licensed the technology from Kayak. Can you say “eerily similar”?

David Weinberger:

Bing’s ripping off of Kayak.com has me pretty cheesed.

Charlene Li:

Bing’s flight fare search reminded me very much of Kayak, my favorite travel search engine. In fact, it feels like an exact copy except for one major improvement — the integration of Farecast

That was a few weeks ago. Today, it looks like Kayak’s lawyers decided to do more than notice. As reported in Wired:

“We have contacted them through official channels about concerns about the similarities between Bing and Kayak,” Kayak’s chief marketing officer Robert Birge told Wired.com “From the look and feel of their travel product, they seem to agree with our approach to the market.”

Indeed. I am not a lawyer, and I have no idea whether Kayak has a legal case. Nonetheless, I can certainly empathize with Kayak’s designers, who must be less than amused to see their distinctive look and feel copied wholesale.

But perhaps the more damning point this makes is that Bing, for all of its claims to be different or innovative, is simply copying the leaders. They certainly have good taste to use Kayak as a model for a travel “decision engine”. But, legal or not, imitation isn’t innovation.

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christopher Rines // Jun 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Copying wholesale really annoys me, if that is what they did…

    In our area there are many similar takes on how to present guided navigation but generally I don’t feel people are just “stealing” what works.

    I noticed this also on Huffington Post… They have a widget which if not a direct rip-off of Evri’s sure is suspicious and there’s no reason for it. The idea behind the widgets been around for ever so they could easily have come up with their own visual take.

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I’m not a designer, and I do acknowledge that some ideas may be universal. Still, I have heard many people comment on Kayak as an example of good design, distinct from its competitors in travel space. That predisposes me to consider Bing’s similarities a deliberate copy rather than coincidence.

  • 3 Christopher Rines // Jun 25, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Well if it’s the case it really annoys me.

    As good as Kayak is I’m sure that’s not as far as the user interface can be pushed. Speaks to you is Bing innovating question I suppose.

  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Oh, I agree. Though I think it’s hard to do much better, given the real-time challenges with travel pricing and availability. Hey, there’s a real real-time search problem!

  • 5 Jim M // Jul 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    the internet’s motto has long been “reverse engineer and improve” due to the openness of just “View Source” on any page out there. perhaps the Bing people forgot the “improve” part. I toy around with it to see if it’s better. I’m not sure why the kayak people would be upset about the copying since that’s pretty standard fare. Should all implementations of typeahead search be banned except for the first person who did it. maybe kayak is getting commoditized…

  • 6 Daniel Tunkelang // Jul 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Copying functionality is one thing, but copying the look and feel–which, at least to my untrained eye, is what they did–feels a bit less in the spirit of the internet. That said, someone did suggest to me that it is Kayak that copied from Farecast before Microsoft acquired Farecast. Certainly it feels like someone copied the other’s design.

  • 7 cproductreviews.com // Oct 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Yet Steve Jobs has raised the bar for an industry through imitation.

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