Google's Statements on Toolbar Autolink

68 comments
Thread Title:
Google Toolbar's AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out
Thread Description:

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...

Comments

Sure...

Quote:
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

They got that idea by the fact that a link is there (or at least that clicking a button on the toolbar will put a link there). That is not a reason to think "the user was going to go elsewhere anyway." The user is going someplace because G is giving them someplace to go.

It’s misleading to users, t

It’s misleading to users, the toolbar says “Show book info” even when on a more detailed review than amazons. Shouldn’t it say “find books on Amazon” Most people are aware of Amazon and know what it offers anyway, the toolbar implies there is more and better info elsewhere.

Quote:
"If the links sometimes won't show because there's a publisher opting-out, that's bad for the user experience."

So going to a page on Amazon to be told it has NO info on a book because its not stocked in Amazon.com is a good experience. And having it say “show book info “ even when on the Amazon page already is really helping users

dangerous shades of grey

If Google gets away with this you know MS and Yahoo will be doing the same within a year. This is the beginning of a very ugly movement to consolidate all web space.

"But all these shades of grey make us better than MS, we are after all not getting paid for the income Amazon** is getting from this."

**Please, these two companies are so in bed together that if they linked to B&N it would be considered infidelity.

Danny did a good job on that

Danny did a good job on that article. I think he was a little soft on them (he's a polite guy anyway), but all-in-all he does leave the reader with the general idea that "this smells and they are making excuses." Or do you think I read too much into it?

Danny

Is far, far to polite - imo it's a weakness in an otherwise iron clad authority in the Search industry - perhaps his only major flaw.

He left the right impression, but man, he bent over backward to leave it without offending Google i think...

Dan Gillmor had lunch with Ice Queen Marissa Mayer apparently - he's a bit wishy washy to say the least, but agree with his views or not he's another with clout - and an opinion worth noting:

Quote:
I have trouble with Search Engine Watch's Danny Sullivan's view that publishers of Web sites should be able to opt out of the toolbar changes. In theory, once I have content on my desktop it should be my right to "remix" it in the way I choose.

What Google isn't taking into account is that its market power, and the tendency of users to accept the default -- to eat what's on the plate someone puts in front of them -- will tend to create Google's version of the Web, not the users' version. We all hates Microsoft's Smart Tags idea because it gave more, unearned power to Microsoft. Google doesn't have that same dominance, but it has enough to worry about.

Will Google do the right thing? This is a big test.

and FWIW

That last point of Dan's is my major concern: If someone, was to write a toolbar that did exactly the same, but add their own affiliate links, we'd not like it. But i dont think i'd have quite the problem with it that I have with Google doing it.

It's the implications of such a move, as LM said earlier, that are really disturbing...

>the implications of such a move, as LM said

BTW, LM's post title "dangerous shades of grey" was a classic --I've already stole, ummm, appropriated it.

But back to implications... really, who has been so naive about where we're headed? Winer, Gilmor? Guess so. Welcome to the machine, boys.

BTW, Nick, good coverage from Zeldman --and it's rising in Daypop. http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0205f.shtml

Yeah

and Rubel was even forced to aknowledge us - even though he made out he found it on Zeldmans site Muhahahah.. I know you read here Steve!

and blogdex.net, metafilter and SHOCK: WMW! though I wouldn't hold out on the life expectancy of that one heh..

"Dangerous shades of grey" - it is beautiful isn't it?

Whos user?

All for the user, eh?

So, if ultra-mega-search-engine.com find that their test users don't like Adsense and banners but (curiously) prefer green links that lead to ultra-mega-search-engine.com partners, then that would give them licence to include such a feature would it?

Quote:
once I have content on my desktop it should be my right to "remix" it in the way I choose.

Wonder if they'll enjoy "re-mixing" with significantly reduced consumer choice.

This is not about user empowerment. It's about leading the masses by a rope directly to associates.

feedback email address

I just found this in someone's blog.

speaking of someone's blog...

Did anyone follow this blog link from the article?

http://egofood.blogspot.com/2005/02/oh-please.html

works for the big G$

That Egofood guy is an employee, you don't think he's bias do you?

Tell G what you think

Don't know if its been posted but this is on Google for general toolbar feedback

Piling Higher and Deeper

The BS coming out of the Google Headquarters is piling high pretty fast. User empowerment is just a rationalization for power grab.

it is quite funny

that some of the people screaming loudest about it being totally fine are people using nofollow - I know it's a bit different but generally speaking what's an unwanted link between friends?

As long as Google stick to the claim they "didn't consider" the smarttags comparison I thing they're either lying or too stupid to be in charge of a public company.

Heh

If you tolerate this, then your website will be next.

Oh please!

If they care so much about the "user experience" hopefully they'll include maps.yahoo.com. Or better yet, the user should be able to include any custom url for sites that offer map searches where an address can be plugged right into the search parameters. They can even do the same for the ISBN's. It is all about what the user wants right? It is all about providing users with other information that is out there. Oh wait, it is what Google wants users to want because they agreed to download the toolbar.

Are you going to allow this Google? If you care so much about the user and don't believe in dictating what the user should experience then please add these options.

Better yet Google, if you care so much about the user then why not add links on your search engine results pages. You know, "search for [keyword] at Yahoo.com?

You said it yourself right here:

That's a pretty determined series of user actions. It seems to me that that user is going elsewhere anyway," Mayer said.

If the user wants to get information elsewhere when given the opportunity then why not put a link to Yahoo?

they are sort of fair

>> they'll include maps.yahoo.com

actually they do :) by default its G but you can choose Yahoo! Maps or Mapquest instead....

I don't think everything about the toolbar's evil - if they'd just make it opt in (for the site owner) then I wouldn't really have a problem any more.

>>by default its G but you ca

>>by default its G but you can choose Yahoo! Maps

yes but I don't see the option directly on the auto-link button, you have to into the options settings to find it which is what most users won't know about. If they want to improve the user experience then they need to offer those options directly on the auto-link button

re: "In for a penny, in for a pound, I say."

possible translation: you're f'ed.
alternate translation: f' you.

Damn!

That was a bloody good post from msgraph too! bugger.. hehhe....

Dont hold me to it, but i think a post dedicated to concrete reasons why Google obviously think we're stupid may be in order next week eh?

I see the Google fans are say

I see the Google fans are saying that the user has consented and is in full control therefore it’s ok - isn’t that what other adware vendors say(at least they say what they are doing in the small print). Where does it say when we find an ISBN we will place a link to our friends Amazon regardless of quality info.

The average user wont know exactly what’s happening, and probably wont be expecting to end up at Amazon. Most sites with ISBN’s already link to Amazon anyway, those that don't probably have a good reason not to, so its not like its improving the user experience, users will use it expecting something better.

What next?
“search” to link to google
“money” to link to AdSense
“advertise” to link to adwords

Seems like Google are simply

Seems like Google are simply airing some selected reasoning - laying out why Autolink *might* be a good idea. Obviously, it doesn't properly address any of the criticisms involved, but it'll be surprising if they don't back down to it with a spin of their marketing coat-tails.

Anyone remember the recent false alarm about an IE update blocking AdSense? I'm sure someone in MS could argue such a feature would enhance the user experience. If Google wanted to open the door they're holding, then on a coporate level, I'm sure they'll soon find it swings both ways.

Lyer Lyer Pants on Fire

Quote:
Obviously Amazon is a partner of ours, but there was no monetary exchanges as part of this development.

I refuse to believe that. There has to be a monetary exchange.

The fact of the matter is, Google is putting something on my property that I did not give them permission to do. That's called TRESPASSING. Period.

Read the RESPONSE I got from Google re this mess.

Okay, so I never got an A in diplomacy-- but neither has Google, in my opinion, after I've read this. It sounds so . . . um . . . defensive???

Thank you for your feedback regarding the AutoLink feature of the Google
Toolbar 3.0 beta. AutoLink is a user-initiated feature of the Google
Toolbar. AutoLink links are generated only when a Toolbar user clicks on
the AutoLink button on his or her Toolbar. Links aren't automatically
generated on a page, and a Toolbar user must click on the generated links
in order to go to a linked page. AutoLink does not modify links that
already exist on a page. Finally, Toolbar users choose whether they want
to enable or disable this feature and when to use it.

Because Toolbar users choose whether they want to enable or disable
features and when to use them, we do not provide a way for webmasters to
disable features such as AutoLink and the Popup Blocker on their visitors'
Toolbars.

We appreciate your taking the time to share your feedback about the
AutoLink feature, and we'll keep it in mind as we work to improve our
service.

Regards,
The Google Team

Original Message Follows:
------------------------
From:

Subject: I do not want Autolinks on my sites- ever.
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 01:08:21 -0000

I wish for you to give me a tool, such as a metatag, that will keep your
Autolink content off of the pages that my clients and I pay for. This
whole tool bar autolink concept is rather um . . . er . . . highhanded is
much too mild a term. Hitleresque comes to mind, though that might be a
bit (but ONLY a bit) too far the other direction.

Version: whatever
OperatingSystem: winxphome
Browser: ie6
IssueType: t3

New reason for web site abandonment

So you create a landing page for an ad with the goal of keeping the visitor on the site.

You create a homepage with no banners that take the visitor off your site.

You make embedded links in your content go inside your site.

You put call to action buttons on the site and designed paths that directed visitors to remain on the site.

You wrote persuasive content, paid for ads, optimized the hell out of the site and paid for inclusion, with the goal of conversions on your site.

And now Google waltzes in and hands folks a toolbar that lets them leave your site with the incentive of suggesting a link you didn't put there because, duh, you wanted to keep the visitor ON YOUR SITE.

This is user centered design, ala Google. How does ClickTracks monitor this?

Yeah, kickass -

VERY defensive sounding to me. Great post, btw.

Can anyone say Gator?

Man, is it just me or do Google's responses sound eerily like those of Gator a few years ago? Ms. Mayer's answers made me think I was reading the words of Scott Eagle from Gator who was very good at making you *think* Gator was something users actually wanted!

I just don't see what the big deal is

I agree it is a slippery slope. I just don't see the big deal with what they have in place right now. People have the right to use tools on the web. Just because that tool is made by Google doesn't make it evil. As a user - I want control over the web.

Google has long had in place a tool where you could right click on a word - and look up that word in Google - or even its definition. I see little difference between that and what Google is doing. I don't recall anyone complaining about that.

Google has been doing the cache feature and image search for some time now. To the best of my knowledge - Google has never been successfully challenged on these (at least in the US) and a similar image idea was upheld under case law.

While as webmasters - I may feel I own my content, but I don't - people can make fair use of it - and tools to translate it or whatever else they want to do with it. As long as Google requires the user to press a button to activate the tool - I don't see it as evil - they are not changing any content until the user requests that it be changed.

I just don't think webmasters complaining is going to convince Google of anything. It strikes me as small businesses complaining about walmart. Google doesn't care about small businesses - nor do they care about stockholders or anyone else - they don't have to.

I don't really think the tool is all that useful - except maybe for addresses. I don't think people are going to lose that much traffic from it. I am sure I will get more traffic from the toolbar than I will ever lose from it.

I see my opinion is outnumbered by about 25:1 here, but oh well :)

slippery slope

That is exactly it, Think of it as cancer. It will be much easier to stop this now, when not a whole lot of money is being made than when this "feature" becomes widely deployed. And it surly will become widely deployed if Google gets away with it now. Dangerous trends often start with a single, seemingly inoffensive act.

I guaranty you that this will only be step one, and if AutoLink is okay today, then smart-tags will soon become the norm and all the major players will have their own version.

2007:
Autolink -> adsense everywhere, Amazon.com
Smarttags -> msn shpping network, B&N
Yahootags -> Overture listings

Everything you own will be owned by them = death of independent ecommerce.

Littleman Nailed It.

The importance of attacking Smarttags and Toptext in 2001 was to nip it before it became entrenched and spread. That is exactly why Autolink must be stopped now.

>>Man, is it just me or do Google's responses sound eerily like those of Gator a few years ago?

You are right Jill. It's spooky how much Google's statements sound like Gator. I suppose it is the Orwellian mind set they have to get into.

Gator

If anyone can pull up an old interview or suchlike to demonstrate this it would make for an awesome post...

Google have shot themselves in the foot with this one, even if they do back down, which im beginning to seriously doubt, they've dented their reputation just by trying...

First Gator now google

news.com

Quote:
Gator says its practices are legal because consumers agree to receive the ads when they download and install its software
....

Eagle said. "Our consumers save billions of dollars per year on software that they'd have to spend $20 to $30 on if they weren't ad supported. Yes, I am sorry that many Web sites don't have a valid business model, but don't blame Gator on their failure. They crashed and burned long before we came on the scene

technologymarketing

Quote:
Eagle points out that users are told that they are also downloading Gator, and can choose not to install the software.
....
Despite the controversy surrounding Gator, users do not seem to mind the advertising component, says Eagle. Otherwise they would just delete the program

clickz

Quote:
Does the consumer have the right to download and use software that gives him alternatives and could save him money? Or does the wireless phone provider get the right to control that consumer's computer screen? It is the user's computer, the user invited the wireless carrier site onto his screen, the user invited Gator to help with forms/passwords. The user in this case valued the alternative promotion Gator offered on behalf of the advertiser

Sound familiar?

Quote:
So the consumer was empowered. Empowered to control their screen. Empowered to invite both Gator and the wireless site. Empowered to save money with the Gator offer, or empowered to reject the Gator offer and keep reviewing the wireless Web site offering.

Another Gator article

This News.com article from 2001 is an interesting read

Quote:
One e-tailer that's been bitten is 1-800-Flowers.com. When certain Web surfers visit the site to browse for bouquets, a pop-up ad appears for $10 off at chief rival FTD.com. The same sort of thing happens at AmericanAirlines.com, where a Delta Air Lines promotion is waiting in the wings.
Quote:
Scott Eagle, chief marketing officer at Gator, said consumers can easily uninstall the software by accessing the "add/remove programs" in their settings. He added that consumers can opt out of receiving the program during downloads of partners' technology.
Quote:
Gator's Eagle said the proposition of reaching consumers when they are researching a product on a competitor's site is undoubtedly alluring because it can drive transactions. The ads can also garner click-through rates in the double digits.
Quote:
"The promise of the Internet was always one-to-one marketing, but nothing has ever proven it out. We're proving it out," Eagle said.
Quote:
"We get lots of angry calls; maybe even an attorney calls up because they're angry," said Gator's Eagle. "We explain it's the consumers' right because we're invited onto the desktop. We're not changing their content; we're popping up on the consumers' desktop. Don't they advertise on TV showing competitor comparisons? The only difference is that we're more effective.

Plus ca change, eh? Perhaps they could find a job for Mr Eagle at Google :-)

Anyone hear Copyright Infringement?

Altering the presentation from that intended by the site owner through any means is copyright infringement. Yep, major class action lawsuits await Google on this one.

While everyone is being nice to Google in fears that their web site may fall from grace Google is misusing that power and attempting to get away with dirty tricks like this. It makes me wonder what other mind-altering tools they are going to throw our way in the hopes we swallow it without asking questions.

This probably isn't an exact quote, but I think the point will come across.

"There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are now in control of the transmission. We control the horizontal and the vertical. We can deluge you with a thousands channels, or expand one single image to crystal clarity and beyond. We can shape your vision to anything our imagination can conceive. For the next hour, we will control all that you see and hear."

Are we suing MS as well...

...for messing up our well-css'ed pages with their tolerant but sloppy browser?

Issues

I certainly don't think Google or anyone else has the right to alter information on my site to the user....even if the user chooses to install the G toolbar. Let's say I don't link to amazon.com from my site...for whatever reason. I have a story on the book Gone with the Wind.....even listing the ISBN number..but not linking to amazon. Does Google have a right to turn that ISBN number into a link? By doing so, they give the perception that I have linked to amazon...and thus..perceptions can be that I am partnering or endorsing amazon.com.

Isn't that how Google ranks sites? By external links?? Saying a site's Page Rank increases by external links from authority sites....cause a link to your site is an "endorsement" from the linking site??

So....their toolbar changes text on my page into a link..and the user thinks that I, as the publisher is endorsing this site and linking to it.

Now..not really a problem with amazon....but this can lead us down the path of Google linking to whoever they want (advertisers)....and I certainly do not approve of the toolbar creating perceptions that *I* am offering the link to the external site.

On a side note....the toolbar is slightly flawed. Spent 5 minutes tinkering with it.....did a search on ebay for Gone with the Wind book. Clicked on the 2nd result....and when I tried to use the autolink feature for info on the book, the toolbar highlighted the auction item number thinking it was the ISBN number and linked to amazon......which of course generated a page that didn't exist.

Many things are amiss

There are many problems with this, the perception of association is an excellent one, one i'd not thought of for sure - thanks layover!

Welcome in Lee and Layover, and any else lurking out there - do introduce yourselves here

Regarding the Gator links, bloody awesome, thanks a lot for finding those guys, i think we can do something special with some of the informatin we've (you've) managed to gather here in the week when the net is a bit busier - would be nice to get some of those comparisons out there and spread the meme far and wide - more than an eye opener i'd say...

ISBN Probs

Take a look (for those that have the toolbar installed)

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=7-0446533106-1

I did read that B&N has altered their entire site to be sure that ISBN numbers appear as links...the assumption is that it did so since the toolbar won't alter any exisiting link.

But..wonder how many book sites (like powells.com) will not realize and lose biz to amazon.

Google tests like MS does

Seems to me that Google is doing what Microsoft does. It launches something that hasn't completed QA testing by calling it BETA, produces press releases and lets the public use it. The feedback is free testing. Someone here found an error. Great. But that just makes Google's engineers look inadequate. An error like that should have found in-house, not by an end-user. Or maybe not. Microsoft never seems to care how stupid they look either.

I don't have any strong objections over user control, in the form of toolbars, browser preferences and such. It makes for design headaches, (forseeing all the different possibilities of usage), but we're used to that ordeal.

What worries more is the overall picture. If technology now allows someone to do something to a web page that the designer and owner do not want or did not intend to have happen, simply because there is a position that end-users deserve more control, how is this any different than hacking and defacing pages?

As yet, I don't the autolink bar in its present state is going to wreak that much havoc, other than the address-to-map part. It's what they do next with it that concerns me.

the real question

Why are they willing to risk so much for so little?

Getting past the Google toolbar...

It appears that powells.com has wrapped ISBN numbers with an "a" tag, and thus, the toolbar *thinks* the number is already a link....so..the toolbar then cannot generate it's own link.

For example (from their site)...

< A >0446533106< /a > (had to add spaces to get the tags to appear in this post)

Seems they did this just within the last few hours......

Cannot reproduce the ebay problem I found a few hours ago...and cannot find any reason for it.

Think everyone is on the move today trying to get around this stuff?

FWIW

Quote:
By doing so, they give the perception that I have linked to amazon...and thus..perceptions can be that I am partnering or endorsing amazon.com.

I don't think anyone's going to make that mistake. They do have to click the button on the toolbar to make the link appear.

That doesn't mean I'm all warm and fuzzy over this thing, mind you.

Average Users

I don't think anyone's going to make that mistake. They do have to click the button on the toolbar to make the link appear.

Well...once the button is clicked...the toolbar by default now displays links within pages. So, the next day, week, month....whatever....the average user will long have forgotten about this preference they set in the toolbar, and they will just figure the links they see on any given page are links that are published by the site and not the toolbar.

In the future, what stops Google from forcing any links on a page they choose to...."on behalf of the user".....thus...possibly linking to my competitor?

What stops other toolbar publishers from adopting this practice and linking to their advertisers?

I just think this is a bad thing all the way around. Gen'ing links on the toolbar is one thing...but creating links within a web page that Google doesn't own...seems way overboard to me.

I wasn't aware of that. So yo

I wasn't aware of that. So you're saying that if I install the toolbar, go to a page, click the button and get the link, then every time I go to that page in the future the link will be there whether I click the button or not?

Toolbar Preferences

Yes, once you activate autolinks....now every time you visit a page, this feature will be on. The only way to turn it off, is to click the autolink tab on the toolbar, which gens a drop down menu that will have the option to "Remove autolinks"

Or you can click the "options" tab on the toolbar and deactivate it.

Either way...I think once the average user activates this feature...it is there for good and it will become part of their every day surfing.

Which means...for them...my site may have links on it that I don't want.

The danger of this practice is enormous.....think Google will publish the only toolbar to have this ability? Yahoo!, Alexa...whoever....they will do this too if web users accept this practice.

They very well can force sites to publish links to their advertisers, which can lead to publishing links on *my* site to *my* competitor's site.

Heck, I can design my own toolbar for my users...and every time they visit my competitor's site...I can force links within the page to link to my site....and I can do all this in the name of "bettering the user experience."

Butt out of our conversation

Given the young age of v.3, and the fact it's beta, I think it's a little premature for G to start claiming a championing of the users "Cause"... and dangerous for all sides if they try to stir up a fight between webmasters and users.

What happened to the democratic ethos of the web? Ironically, the same guiding principle PageRank was founded upon.

For example, what if I decided to support the 2 folk that were sued for libel by MacDonalds in the UK courts? The individuals concerned were denied public funds to launch a legal defence so, against an army of lawyers acting for MacDonalds, had to defend themselves.

Now what if I, along with other sympathisers, decide to voice our abhorrence on our websites and also use it as a channel for people to donate to a defence fund? I think you must see where this is going; I certainly don't want Google Local "pinging" MY reader's attention away to links to a map that shows where the nearest MacDonalds eatery is.

No, it's my audience, my message; If anyone wants to disagree, post in my forum. If there isn't one, email me... or, shout via your own website - But don't start interupting EVERY conversation I have with my audience.

My site is a user-experience *I* designed for *my* intended audience - It has a purpose only I and my reader understands. If they want to block ads or over-ride my CSS, fine; That IS a user-choice. If they want to go off elsewhere (maybe to MacD's), let them make that untainted and DETERMINED choice by typing in a search engine - But don't interupt our dialog. It's private, and for me and the user alone to disrupt.

I'm sure G would quickly take umbrage with anyone who managed to plaster someone elses logo on every single Google logo in existence, now, and into eternity.

[Ya know, what REALLY gets to me is the visible button change and audible pinging.]

Ladies and gentlemen, this is but a subset of many communities on the web. The message has to spread further:

- The media (global, national and rural) need to understand that it's their websites that will also be affected.
- The scripts (posted here) needs to be available from other hi-profile places like HotScripts, SourceForge etc...
- Plug-in makers for browsers like Firefox, Maxthon etal need to be encouraged to get onboard.
- Businesses and clients we speak to need to be made aware... possibly include disclaimers within our contracts that protect against any claims arising from loss of revenue due to third-party toolbar intervention.
- Encourage, and use copyright notices on sites that spell out the terms of a single-user licence between the user and the domain for specified use only.

Some of that may not be workable, I dunno, but ya get the point - It's gettin the message out to those whom may think it doesn't affect, as well as to those who aren't even aware of the toolbar (yet).

Thanks for digging up those G

Thanks for digging up those Gator articles. I knew Ms. Mayer's comments sounded familiar.

What am I supposed to do with this sick feeling I have in my stomach regarding Google now?

This toolbar and its implications seems to be against everything Google used to stand for. How quickly things change. Will we be talking about Google the same way we talk about LookSmart in a year or so?

anyone wanna give me odds on

anyone wanna give me odds on Google Guy even thinking about replying to these posts??????

Hell how long ago was the Google IPO? I find it difficult to believe they have got to this point http://www.fuckedcompany.com/ so quickly – too much money at the plex these days.

a Linux geek using search.msn.com

Well, I went my first day without using Google. I am not boycotting yet, but I am so pissed over this that I just can't go to use their search today.

"Why are they willing to risk so much for so little?"

"Why are they willing to risk so much for so little?"

I've been guessing that it's a preemptive move against Microsoft's probable integration of some form of Smart Tags into Longhorn, along with the anticipated Longhorn integration of Web and desktop search into the operating system.

I'd guess that Autolink on the Google Toolbar is a rehearsal for Autolink on Google DeskTop.

er (again)

>>Well...once the button is clicked...the toolbar by default now displays links within pages

for me it doesn't - even if I refresh the page the links dissapear and I have to add them again.

I honestly don't think that this is going to induce user confusion. To be honest I don't think at the moment that this is going to induce anything much at all. But until there's an opt in/out provided for the site owners if we accept this then Peters right and we'll all be singing bloody gloomy depressing songs while we watch our (clients) income dribble away as their sites start linking to the big boys with mates at Google.

To The Post (whoever you are)

Quote:
No, it's my audience, my message; If anyone wants to disagree, post in my forum. If there isn't one, email me... or, shout via your own website - But don't start interupting EVERY conversation I have with my audience.

My site is a user-experience *I* designed for *my* intended audience - It has a purpose only I and my reader understands. If they want to block ads or over-ride my CSS, fine; That IS a user-choice. If they want to go off elsewhere (maybe to MacD's), let them make that untainted and DETERMINED choice by typing in a search engine - But don't interupt our dialog. It's private, and for me and the user alone to disrupt.

EXACTLY!

I doubt that Google Guy...

...is in favor of this toolbar thingee. I think he's a long-time techie like most here, who probably doesn't like to see this sort of thing either. Which is one reason I doubt you'll see him post here. They're letting Ms. Mayer take all the heat on this one it appears!

Want to bet there will be lots of infighting regarding this autolink in the Googleplex over the next few months? Unless of course they simply do the right thing and drop it altogether.

Is there a precedent?

Has G ever come out with a "service" of any kind and subsequently dropped it? Seems to me they just leave things in beta, and that can serve to imply that they're open to change when they may not be.

does this fall within the SEMPO remit?

admittedly this may be tricky - but I would say that nearly all SEO/SEM people feel that AutoLink requires at minimum an opt-out facility.

Since SEMPO represents the industry I hope they can find a way to raise our concerns when they see their Google contacts at SES, (well, their members concerns, I don't pay them so I guess they don't need to raise mine).

This option needs to be an 'o

This option needs to be an 'opt-in' option.

If a website owner wants the links to show in the google toolbar, then they should put something that says something like "google-toolbar-link = yes"...

If there is no tag in the code, google's toolbar links should default to opt out, that is, no links show.

Everyone is happy.

Webmasters are happy

Making it opt-in would certainly make us happy, but no way would it make Google happy. Who's going to go to the trouble of adding a tag that will serve to send people away from their sites?

White Pages Conflict

I did some messing around to see how the Autolink would work in something like the WhitePages site (http://whitepages.addresses.com/), and though inconsistent, it does hyperlink home addresses that are listed. (Whitepages site doesn't hyperlink them.)

What WhitePages does is provide an optional other link to take the visitor to a map (not Google's). So therefore, if the Autolink is used to find a map on their site, it effectively sends the visitor to Google's map, not the one Whitepages has chosen to send its visitors to.

The autolink version of the Toolbar seems to be only IE-ready, not Firefox, Netscape, etc. Yet.

The autolink feature doesn't seem to "see" addresses inside images, which is another way to prevent them from being manipulated rather than inserting a script.

Replacing addresses with images

Quote:
The autolink feature doesn't seem to "see" addresses inside images, which is another way to prevent them from being manipulated rather than inserting a script.

But if you do that, you most likely lose any Google Local listings you had.

High level talks with the engines?

NB: Originally posted by littleman, who kindly agreed to add it as a comment here (we have another thread going out today and i'd rather keep just a few threads alive for the moment :)

(a possible paranoid webmaster's delusion?)

We saw that rel="nofallow" was a collaborative effort. Could it be that the big G, the big Y!, and MSN got together on the topic and decided that this would be a good thing for the big three at the expense of everyone else?

If you were part of an oligopoly* and you wanted to phase in an enormous money maker how would you do it?

Logic of implementation:
1) Pick the company with the best reputation to be the first to implement it in a way which can be justified as a service.
2) Company two and three then kick in and do the same thing, but without the pretence of being a service.
3) Company one then stops pretending that it is a service and opens the flood gates.

Maybe Y! and MSN are hoping that the outcry over AutoLinks dissipates and that Google is successful in implementing stage one?

From WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]:

oligopoly
n : (economics) a market in which control over the supply of a
commodity is in the hands of a small number of producers
and each one can influence prices and affect competitors

If i were MSN

If i were MSN, i'd be building this into my own toolbar right now, just waitng for the public to grudgingly accept that Google is not going to back down.

You know what, i hope they are/do - maybe it will only be when all the major SE's are changing our page that something will have to give...

Why are they willing to risk so much for so little?

An earlier post asks the question as to why Google are willing to risk so much for so little.

The answer is that is the wrong question, the right question is "why are Google willing to risk so much", and the answer is because its for one hell of a lot of money.

Currently Google is getting its growth from AdWords

Quote:
In a highly anticipated investors conference call and web-cast, Google reported significant quarterly growth with an income of $303 million on just over $1 billion in revenues. This represents a 101% increase over the same period in 2003. Google made an awful lot of money last quarter, capping off the best year in the firm’s history.
Quote:
Almost all of Google’s revenues come from paid-advertising and its distribution. With literally millions of unique web properties displaying advertising generated through Google’s AdWords programs, and a major commitment to the development of emerging international markets, CEO Eric Schmidt is confident the growth will continue through 2005.

Trying to describe Google’s business model at this point is much like explaining the growth and future plans of an adolescent. Suffice it to say their continued growth is based on continually producing great products and partnerships that provide virtual real estate for AdWords advertising to appear on.

Basically there is no way Google can continue this sort of growth indefinitely, however their share price means that they have to.

A major new line of revenue is needed, and hijacking web pages in this way is an obvious way to at least double present income for Google.

All the major players need a major new income stream of this sort, and so much money is at stake that they really do not care what the world thinks. Goggle are certainly prepared to lose corporate image to make this stick.

Not sure about Conspiracy

I'm not sure about oligarchs conspiring but I think points 2 & 3 of Littleman's are exactly the way this will play out.

Quote:
2) Company two and three then kick in and do the same thing, but without the pretence of being a service.
3) Company one then stops pretending that it is a service and opens the flood gates.

Trying to explain to Jo Public

This concept is difficult to explain to person in the street, something we need to do to get it nipped in the bud. Best analogy I can find is me walking into Marks&Spencer/Bay/Sears with a sandwich board saying "ask me where to find that product cheaper" and me directing customers to walmart. The "user" has elected to find more information. Good for me, good for customer, bad for the shop. Well, probably end up bad for me as I would get a good kicking if I tried it ;O)

re: wrong question

the complete question:

Why would they risk so much for what they say is so little?

It was for the people who cannot imagine that this goes any deeper than what the Google reps say.

My point is that if they are willing to completely alienate a large group of influential webmasters, the future payoff must be huge. They can't do things willy nilly now, they have fiduciary responsibilities, y'know...

They must think they will not need webmasters in the near future. Why else would they say "let them eat cake"...?

New Thread

Ok guys, time to move to a new thread as the current ones are getting rather large and it would be nice to have less concurrent discussions on the same topic on the [ulr=http://www.threadwatch.org/tracker]recent posts[/url] list.

You can link to comments in this thread by clicking the title of the comment and grabbing the address there.

Thanks!

Psychology, incentive, and Google

Adding to the pile of posts against Google AutoLink:

I understand the argument that says "my browser is mine, and I can do whatever I want to the content that appears there." I also understand Google's argument, which says "hey, we're only showing ...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.