[Disclaimer: Google has treated me very well over the last several years; I am decidedly 'pro-Google.' I'm also almost entirely 'anti-Microsoft.' However, this article is not about those things. I just want to admit my bias up front.]
Bing says: 'Nuh uh. That is not the case. Oh, and also: Google makes billions promoting spam." OK, that's helpful.
Later, in effort to address the bad PR resultant from the buzz around the issue, Bing responded making the claim that 'user data' is responsible for the common search results. The idea is that Bing promotes results that people are actually clicking on, and that the Bing Toolbar is doing some magicks to improve their search rankings. They say the reason that the gibberish queries show up in their results is just because Google engineers actually clicked the resultant links... and then the magick happened. A number of different factors are taken into account by the Bing Toolbar to influence how clicked links should affect Bing's search results, and apparently several of them only seem like they're just being copied directly from Google.
That's fine, but if the gibberish search terms aren't present in the urls Google randomly selected for their tests -- and they're not -- the only way Bing would have any knowledge of the queries is if the Bing Toolbar is recording not only the click, but the Google search queries used to find that link in the first place.
Bottom line: if Bing is populating their search database by indexing the results page a user got from doing a Google search, those results did in fact come "directly from Google" like Google claims. Whether or not there's anything wrong with collecting 'user data' about what information users search for (and find) on competing search engines is another issue entirely, but Google's claim here absolutely holds true.
Bing is using Google's search results to affect the results they return when users search Bing. And they need to come out and say it rather than denying it and then trying to change the subject to Google's spam-promotion business model.
Either the results came from Google or they didn't. (They did.)
That particular issue, however, is being completely overlooked by people who are now getting caught up in the 'OK, so what?' argument.
This blog post (from a Microsoft employee) essentially says: "Google stole a bunch of features that Bing had; that's no different than Bing stealing Google's results. Since they're both stealing, it's ok." I say there's a big difference between copying UI features and copying actual content, especially when the only reason anyone uses your service is to access that content. It's not the same thing at all.
At this point it's pretty clear to me that because of the missing-the-point pro-Microsoft 'analysis' bloggers are doing, people now think the following things: "this is some big Google VS Microsoft issue," "Microsoft is just being attacked by Google for a PR stunt," "Google is just a big meanie."
Perhaps some (or all) of those things are true; even so, at the end of the day, the issue we're arguing is Google's claim that some of Bing's results are coming "directly from Google." That claim has been very effectively proven to be true. Yet Bing maintains that it's not -- and then talks about "making billions off of spam" to try to distract from the issue at hand.
If Bing wants to make the case that collecting 'user data' from all of a user's activity, including the searching they do on competing search engines (and the results the searches returned) is what they want to do and are doing, then I'd be fine with that. But instead they're just saying it's not happening. And that Google is a spam whore. Google may be a spam whore, but everything they've said in the last few days regarding this issue is demonstrably true. Bing, on the other hand, has opted for Jedi hand-waves.
I'll take an honest whore over an intellectually dishonest liar any day.
The author lives in Vancouver, Washington, USA with his girlfriend and a menagerie of cats, rats, fish, birds, guinea pigs and robots.
Among other inanities, he strives to use investigative techniques to work young starlet breasts into every aspect of rational discourse -- focusing on the discourse, thus making it not perverted. Also, has recently begun a career as "Internet hairstylist."
He can be contacted via email and Jabber IM at 'email@example.com'. He likes to be contacted.
(All press inquiries, however, ought be directed towards the author's agent, Alistair Hoel, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)