As previously reported, Danny Sullivan revealed a "sting operation" set up by Google, which appears to show that Bing has been copying some of their search results. Bing has now responded with more than the canned statement it previously gave to reporters.
"We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is clickstream data we get from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users," wrote Harry Shum, corporate VP at Bing in a blog post. "To be clear, we learn from all of our customers. What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment. But it doesn’t accurately portray how we use opt-in customer data as one of many inputs to help improve our user experience."
"The history of the web and the improvement of a broad array of consumer and business experiences is actually the story of collective intelligence, from sharing HTML documents to hypertext links to click data and beyond. Many companies across the Internet use this collective intelligence to make their products better every day," Shum continued. "We all learn from our collective customers, and we all should."
"From its inception, we have had what we believe is a distinct approach to search, and the features and innovation in Bing – from our new user experience and visual organization approach to our focus on inferring user intent and helping customers complete complex tasks, Bing has added a new voice and new experiences to search," he added. "We never set out to build another version of an existing search engine."
That post came before Shum joined Matt Cutts and Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta on a panel at the Farsight Summit. It was discussion around this topic, which dominated the conversation. Most of the time was spent with Shum and Cutts going back and forth on the subject, though much in the way of new information came to light.
Essentially Cutts maintained the Google position of "Bing’s cheating", and Shum maintained the position described above.
"My view is that we just discovered a new form of spam or click fraud and the Google engineers helped us to figure it out," Shum said at the event, adding that he wishes people could share things like that with them before taking it to the press and getting a "wow effect".
He also said that it would be great if he and Matt could compare signals that they could use.
He also said Google needs to be more transparent. Matt said he thinks Google is about as transparent as it can be without giving away signals that would let people spam the search engine.
Shum did play the "Google has a toolbar too" card, but Cutts said users see "big red capital letters" letting them know about the data sharing as soon as they install it.
What it all boils down to is that Microsoft is looking at user clicks whether they are using Bing, Google, Blekko, or whatever, but Google is not, according to Cutts. "We don’t use clicks from Bing’s users in Google’s rankings," he said.