On February 1, Google went public (via SearchEngineLand.com) with claims that Microsoft is copying Google search results with Bing.
(SearchEngineLand has details of how Google created a "Bing Sting" operation to try to catch Microsoft in the act.)
Is Microsoft copping to the claim? Here's the original response Microsoft is providing to folks who are asking:
"We use multiple signals and approaches in ranking search results. The overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search so we can provide the most relevant answer to a given query. Opt-in programs like the toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites," said Stefan Weitz, Director, Bing.
(Update: Matt Rosoff at Silicon Alley Insider has some good historical perspective on how Microsoft has been using its toolbar add-on for Internet Explorer to keep tabs on search terms and topics.)
I went back and asked the Bing folks again, noting that I couldn't figure out if this was a verbose way of admitting Bing was copying or a denial.
Here's the new statement, attributable to a company spokesperson:
"We do not copy Google's results."
I'm expecting there could be a longer and more detailed answer, via a blog post or a statement during today's Farsite 2011 future of search event. If Microsoft isn't copying Google's results, how do they explain the results of the "Bing Sting"? No word so far.
In the interim, the motto of today's story: The direct answer is almost always the best answer.
Update No. 2: And here it is: Microsoft has posted its explanation of how it uses more than 1,000 different "signals" to create its search algorithm. An excerpt of a blog post from Harry Shum, Bing Corporate Vice President:
"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."