Some less-uninformed speculation about the Google-Bing squabble

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Tags: bing, google, microsoft, search, speculation

Yesterday, I offered some completely uninformed speculation about why Google may have accused Microsoft of using Google’s search results for Bing. My hunch was that Google’s real concern wasn’t copy-catting but something else: Bing’s increasingly competitive search results, powered in good part by “clickstream” data that Microsoft captures by monitoring users as they surf the web with its software.

I wrote:

[M]aybe what’s really going on is that Google is trying to focus the public’s attention on how Bing is getting its relevance evidence. If it turns out that Bing is watching over people’s shoulders as they surf, I can imagine a lot of people, including citizens’ groups, raising a fuss over it. Maybe some politicians take notice. You see where I’m going?

Today, Google’s Matt Cutts offered his thoughts on the Google-Bing debate. After the expected rehash of the copy-catting evidence, he introduces something new:

I don’t think an average consumer realizes that if they say “yes, show me suggested sites” that they’re granting Microsoft permission to send their queries and clicks on Google to Microsoft, which will then be used in Bing’s ranking. I think my Mom would be confused that saying “Yes” to that dialog will send what she searches for on Google and what she clicks on to Microsoft. I don’t think that IE8′s disclosure is clear and conspicuous enough that a reasonable consumer could make an informed choice and know that IE8 will send their Google queries/clicks to Microsoft.

I’d now say that my speculation isn’t completely uninformed. (I’m counting the above as +15 dB of evidence toward my hypothesis being true. Of course, I’m not telling you what my prior probability was. ;-)