Some issues in SEO never seem to die. Cloaking seems to be one of the favorite ones. Recently, Matt Cutts posted about the issue after Philipp Lenssen raised a few concerns. The issues centered on Webmasterworld and New York Times who were accused of cloaking.
As per Webmasterworld, Philipp pointed out that for a certain search on Google, the forum came on number one. But the page actually had a registration form. New York Times, on the other hand, provided content to the bots which required registration from the readers.
The debate following Matt Cutts’s post has gone up to 119 comments and no conclusions have been drawn yet. According to Matt Cutts:
However, Matt concludes saying that:
when a Google user clicks on a search result at Google, they should always see the same page that Googlebot saw. It will take me a little time to check out, because it’s a report of behavior that often meets our guidelines (e.g. cookies, referrers, IP addresses might all come into play), but I do intend to investigate this issue when I get the cycles.
Danny Sullivan, who has lost patience with the repeated debates on the issue, has a great post on the issue.