Google Toolbar's AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out
Danny Sullivan rounds up the issues raised over the last week on the Google Autolink functionality in the new Toolbar. It seems he got a little private press release from Google's Marissa Mayer also, i think you'll find them interesting:
"With AutoLink versus Smart Tags, the toolbar is different is that its only installed by users [as opposed to automatically being part of the browser] and is by no means a majority,"
"Are we really taking traffic away from them? Think about what they've [users] have done. They've been looking at the page. They've decided there's a piece of information on the page. They had to get the idea that they wanted to get more information some way. They clicked a toolbar button, and then they clicked a link. That's a pretty determined series of user actions. It seems to me that that user is going elsewhere anyway,"
"Obviously Amazon is a partner of ours, but there was no monetary exchanges as part of this development. We picked out what we thought was the best user experience for things we linked to
on turning other words into links...
"That goes a little too far. We aren't interested in turning an entire page into hyperlinks. That's not particularly helpful to the user,"
On providing an opt-in or opt-out...
"If you had opt-in or opt-out, that's overall a lot less useful," Mayer said. "If the links sometimes won't show because there's a publisher opting-out, that's bad for the user experience."
"It's an interesting balance to strike, but we're going to weigh more heavily on the user side," Mayer said. "We think we struck the initial balance in a reasonable way. The publisher's page is seen as intended in the browser. It's a user-elected action that changes things. Beyond that, we aren't driving all traffic to Google."
On having the tables turned, like a tool that messed with Googles pages "in the interests of the user"
"I think we'd need to look overall at the utility offered to the users. Can a good argument be made that those users understand what's going on?" Mayer said. "It would be hard for us to argue against user utility because those are the same metrics we're going to use in evaluating our feature set."
"You can just look at Google's track record as with the PageRank feature. We tell people it's not the 'usual yada yada' and we are very up front," Mayer said. "We make sure our users are really informed that something going to happen, because we want to have the trust of our users."
On "alt-clicking" instead...
"We talked about whether we should make this work like that or something else. But we think that if you're going to create a link, the ability to get to get to another page, the web already has paradigm for that. Right now, the link really does make sense,"
"The links that we add do look different. We work hard to help the user understand that this was a link added by the Google Toolbar, that it wasn't a native link. We do this through a mouse rollover that is visible when you mouse over the link."
Reading the quotes in context puts some extra perspective on it of course, but i think you can see where Google are headed with this - I'd say the War has probably just begun...