It’s pretty apparent that Google thinks they caught Bing with their hand in the cookie jar, and they’re not happy. Or at least Matt Cutts isn’t, although if you believe the likes of Kara Swisher at All Things D, this may go all the way up to Larry Page.
Cutts came on stage at Farsight 2011 yesterday loaded for bear, and according to some reports it continued after the session was over, with Cutts and Harry Shum debating loud enough to disrupt the next presentation. Then today again, after everyone had a chance to watch the somewhat bizarre exchange once the video was posted, Cutts again posted on his blog, pulling out the same screenshots he used originally. Although Cutts shows a number of comparison shots, as he did in his first post, this time he fails to mention that only 9 out of the 100 tests showed any similar Bing results at all. Here’s Stephen Colbert’s favorite one:
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of disagreement about the facts, here: Bing is using user data gathered from the Bing Toolbar and IE8 Suggested Sites as “signals” to user intent. Some of that data comes from Google sessions that users have initiated.
What is less clear is a) how much weight Google results carry once they are captured, b) whether IE and Bing Toolbar users are sufficiently warned about the potential uses for the data, and c) as Cutts and Google strongly suggest, whether or not it’s ok for Bing to be doing this in the first place.
Up until now, Microsoft’s response has been that they do not copy results, but they’ve made it clear that they do capture and use data from Google sessions, and don’t seem to be too worried about stopping.
What do you think? Is this a tempest in a teapot? Should Microsoft change, or at least do a better job of clarifying their position? Or is this just another day at the office? We’ve put up a new poll on our homepage, let us know what you think.
(ps if you’re willing to sit through it, here’s the link to the entire 4 hour webcast of Farsight 2011)