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February 25, 2005

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Google Toolbar, an Update:

» Google Toolbar: Still a Good Idea from A Bluegrass Blog
Dan Gillmor is still upset about the new Google Toolbar. And he's still wrong. What gets Dan upset is the Autolink feature added to the toolbar in version 3, which adds links onto pages that contain certain types of information, [Read More]

» More on Google's AutoLink Beta Toolbar Feature from Brainstorms and Raves
Google Toolbar's AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out is Danny Sullivan's thoughtful follow-up article today on the Google toolbar AutoLink feature currently in Beta testing for Windows Internet Explorer users. He presents arguments in favor of AutoLink and... [Read More]

» Dan Gillmor meets with Google from Scripting News
What if a larger company, say Microsoft, without asking for permission, offered Google searches to its users without Google's ads, or even better, with more informative ads, chosen by Microsoft? I assume Google would think this is okay because hey, it'... [Read More]

» Winer keeps banging drum against Google's AutoLink feature from Things that ... make you go hmm
Some would say that it's not news when Dave Winer is banging a drum over some cause, because writing software (or "scripting") doesn't seem to be what what he's about any more, but he is worth listening to on the miserable ... [Read More]

» The Week That Was from John Battelle's Searchblog
Take a week off, a lot of things happen. Here's a round up of the news that was. Lots of folks arguing that Google's new version of its toolbar (covered here) is an unwarranted intrusion on the rights of site owners and/or users. Dan Gillmor covers it... [Read More]

» Google Toolbar from The 13th Colony
It would appear that Google is hoping to ride out the storm on this one, so lets make a bigger storm [Read More]

» Google responds to AutoLink controversy from jason pettus [metafeed]
Blogger Dan Gillmor recently had lunch with Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer web products, to discuss... [Read More]

» Google Auto-Link from Pirates! Man Your Women!
Google AutoLink technology is essentially the s...... [Read More]

» Google AutoLink : No Respect from The Pre-Commerce Blog
You'd think Google would have more respect for links. This is the 'don't be evil' company. This is the company that got famous (and rich) because links used to be a recommendation one person made to a lot of others. Of course, their success has led to ... [Read More]

» Grumblings Over Google's Updated Toolbar: Double opt-in anyone? from Digito Society
Dan Gillmore summarizes (or this) grumblings about the "autolink" feature in Google's tool bar beta edition:At the very least, Google needs to make some changes in the installation process. As users install the toolbar they should be asked if they w... [Read More]

» Search for: "Google" + "evil" from Observer Blog
The blog got an email from one Observer editor at the end of last week, subject heading: 'this is obscure but is it important?' The mail contained Paul Boutin's Slate column about Google's new AutoLink function, a piece of software gadgetry that has go... [Read More]

» 언론의 자유의 외연적 한계 from Korean Jurist

Wired에서 Yahoo!와 Google을 비교하는 기사를 실은 이후, Yahoo!의 행보가 아주 두드러지기 시작했다. 아래에는 내가 [Read More]

Comments

BillSaysThis

Dan, your post confuses me. You mention discussing the matter with Googlers but then you don't give any quotes or paraphrases as to what they said.

"She listened to my concerns and explained Google's stance."

How about updating this post to tell us what she exaplined so we can decide for ourselves?

Seun Osewa

Perhaps he made a verbal non-disclosure agreement? Google is known to be secretive about a lot of things.

jerry

Could help me differentiate the difference between the Google Toolbar, the bookmarklets at bookmarklets.com and the dozens (hundreds) of FireFox extensions that do all sorts of things to a page's content including emphasizing, hiding, reformatting, making links more obvious, changing the page flow, ....

Also, what does it mean that most browsers, including IE, Mozilla, and Thunderbird let me specify my own CSS which does many things to a site's content including changing formats and even hiding portions of the content?

And I run various pop-up blockers some from Firefox, some from Microsoft, some from third parties all of which use patterns to recognize certain pieces of content and then act to remove that content from being displayed.

And my Treo dramatically alters the way a page looks compressing pages and images.

If sites want a static page displayed only the way they wish to display it, maybe they should consider paper.

Otherwise, power to the programmer.

Cranky Observer

> 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.

Seems to me that Google is taking exactly that into account, and is banking on it in fact. Success in such an enveavour would justify the stock valuation.

Cranky

Danny Sullivan

Dan, you're not alone among those that think once it arrives on your desktop, you should be able to do with it as you want. Others, of course, disagree. That's the problem -- the line of what's acceptable is unclear and moves depending on your viewpoint.

My argument is that software vendors, if they're going to make it easy for people to add links to other people's pages, should see that as a major line they are stepping over and provide the opt-out. In my article, I talk how Google could still give you link-like functionality through Alt-Click, acceptable to me because it doesn't actually shove a link on my page. But it also lets the user do everything that's great about AutoLink.

If you were earning money on your site with say Google AdSense, would you object if someone else had a tool that remixed your page by changing your AdSense links to perhaps links that gave the surfer themselves money for clicking? How about something that removed your revenue-generating links? What about something that contextually analyzed your blogroll and then inserted links to other bloggers that the tool thinks someone might wish to discover. The tool user might think that's cool and useful. You as a publisher might not think it's so hot.

It's a complicated issue -- what's allowable and what's not. But at its core, we keep seeing that the insertion of actual links on pages seems to be central. So respect publisher rights in this particular instance and let them opt-out. That can include doing it in a way to make it clear to you, the page remixer, that the publisher doesn't want this tool to allow the feature. You can then complain to the publisher if you dislike it or do an Alt-Click to have the link functionality but with more respect for the publisher.

kpaul

i have to wonder what Google's reaction would be to a browser extension/plug-in/toolbar that changed the way users saw google's se listings. what if some programmer out there got rid of the google ads on the SERPs for the users' experience. or is that fundamentally different because it would be taking away (just ads, though) instead of adding (basically, ads...)

REK

Digito-Society wonders: Is Dan really advocating a double opt-in process?

The full blog: http://digito-society.blogspot.com/2005/02/grumblings-over-googles-updated.html

Isofarro

Danny Sullivan says: "I talk how Google could still give you link-like functionality through Alt-Click, acceptable to me because it doesn't actually shove a link on my page"

Technically impossible to add any behaviour on the page without first adding to or changing the markup. The hypertext anchor is logically the correct markup for linking an HTML page to another resource. Hiding that link behind a combination of keypresses and mouse actions creates a number of barriers to accessibility. This is not good for the visitor who is more accustomed to click on a link using a mouse only.

If the problem is that the autolink looks like a link, then just stick some CSS rules into your stylesheet to style the Google applies links in whatever manner makes sense to you (without making it difficult for the user to spot). The AutoLink toolbar inserts links with a consistent series of ids - so its trivial to style it slightly different to your own links.

"That can include doing it in a way to make it clear to you, the page remixer, that the publisher doesn't want this tool to allow the feature."

That can be accomplished by the publisher putting the relevant text on their website. Its then left up to the user whether to take this request seriously.


Mike Travers

What's needed are some standards -- a combination of ethical and graphical -- that permit third-party tools to alter web content, but do it in non-sneaky ways. It should be obvious that an alteration has happened and who the responsible party is. For example, if Google adds a link it comes up with a box around it and a big G.

It should also be relatively easy to turn off the alterations and see the original.

This sort of design is already becoming prevalent, as for example the Firefox popup blocker which puts up a noticable yellow bar informating you of its actions and giving you an affordance for un-blocking them. It seems to strike a balance between empowering readers and respecting the rights of authors and publishers.

John Mather

Isofarro: Perhaps a good analogy is SPAM. It's up to the user or the mail server to sort out all the garbage. Great.

If Google can do this what's to keep anyone from doing it through viral infections. Double great.

So now web sites have a new job: filter content. Swell.

The more garbage that's dumped into the streets of the superhighway the harder it is to find your way. Let the billboard wars begin! Oh wait there are laws about the placement of billboards...

layover

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.


Also....books stores that publish ISBN numbers as text and not links, will now be faced with the G toolbar linking to amazon.com.

Joe

There's always www.scroogle.org

layover

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)...

0446533106 (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?

jerry

1985(ish)

How would ABC, CBS, and NBC feel if someone invented a device, the VCR, which allowed the user to skip commercials?

1995(ish)

DVD's contain content that cannot be skipped over, the FBI warning for one. Disney's DVDs often do not allow parents to skip past commercials for other Disney movies.

2005(ish)

Broadcast flag proposed to keep users from recording TV shows, columnists becoming alarmed that an optional toolbar might, with just one click, detect addresses and link to maps, readers alarmed that others might create extensions that remove Google ads (it's called adblock and it already exists). Many of the same columnists advocate the use of RSS, which many people use to circumvent ads, and I'm fairly certain most of these same people all like Googe's language translation tools which like the Babelfish that came before, radically alter a page's presentation by translating it into a different language.

Strange world. And just what is the difference between Bloglines, Google Translation Tools, and the Google Toolbar?

layover

-----quote-----
Strange world. And just what is the difference between Bloglines, Google Translation Tools, and the Google Toolbar?
-----quote-----

The difference is this....

What stops every toolbar publisher from taking on the practice of gen'ing links on my site...and these links are to their advertisers...some who may be direct competitors of mine?

What stops me from developing my own toolbar for my users...and every time they visit my competitor's site...I force links within the page to link to my site?

Rod Begbie

i have to wonder what Google's reaction would be to a browser extension/plug-in/toolbar that changed the way users saw google's se listings.

Such items already exist -- For example, Better Search. As far as I'm aware, Google hasn't commented one way or another on this plugin.

jerry

"What stops every toolbar publisher from taking on the practice of gen'ing links on my site...and these links are to their advertisers...some who may be direct competitors of mine?"

Nothing except individual will. If their toolbar is useful, folks will manually install it. If their toolbar is not, folks will not.

But what is the difference between your not wanting folks to change content you provide, and HP not allowing folks to use FULL ink cartridges past a certain date? Or Disney not wanting to allow me to skip past 15 minutes of previews on a DVD? Or the TV industry wanting the broadcast flag and to make it illegal to skip past commercials?

Why aren't you upset about Firefox's popup blocker? Or Microsoft's IE 7 which also blocks popups?

Why aren't you upset about Microsoft's Anti-Spyware download? Or Lavasoft ad-aware?

Or IE's ability to NOT run various Active X controls?

Why aren't you upset with many ISP's proxies and caches that force users to see old and expired material but save the ISP money and presumably speed up the user experience?

My Treo's brower (and Dan's) will automatically recognize phone numbers in a page, and link them so that I can call them automatically. (I wish it would recognize addresses so that I could add them into my contacts list)

ALL OF THESE THINGS change the content from the way the publisher wanted it presented. Why are you now upset with Google?

Dave Winer

Jerry, if you had a balanced view of this, then it would be okay to create a toolbar that did Google searches and replaced their ads with more useful ads. Would that be okay with you? How do you think Google would feel about that?

jerry

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the reply. I do think I have a balanced view of this....

I would probably be fine with somebody stripping out google ads, and there's already something similar to that. Since I have adblock on Firefox, I can easily add these two patterns to get rid of googleads as well as blogads:

*googlesyndication*
*blogads*

I use to 127.0.0.1 blogads as their servers interacted badly with Mozilla and kept pages from being presented properly. Either they fixed their servers or Firefox has figured it out, so I see the blogads now. I figure that Atrios, et. al, would rather I see their content properly, even if I didn't see the ads rather than me not coming by at all.

I would probably not be okay with someone replacing the google ads with their own, the reason being that if I want to support a site, I need to see the ads that google is paying them to see, and not just some usurpers (ala Gator?). There is no value to me for ads that do not support the site.

I think that's the real flaw in the ad-replacing toolbar analogy. I don't care what it does to Google, but it almost certainly hurts the site that I am viewing by hijacking their ad revenue. Google isn't doing that, and has never done anything close to that, even when retrieving pages from their cache, and so I don't think it makes your ad-replacing toolbar analogy terribly valid.

But unless the toolbar was spyware, I wouldn't have a problem with it. I don't know why folks would install it. But that's their problem.

I read most of the blogs I read on my treo using bloglines/mobile. It cuts out almost all of the ads. I'm pretty happy that I can do that, and I am thankful that your contributions towards RSS have made that possible. Now most RSS feeds are offered with the cooperation of the original publisher, but not all. Some are scraped by third parties.

Anyway, I assume most folks at Google would be upset about an ad replacing toolbar, and I bet some folks would like to find some way to regulate that out of the market place, or even go legal on them. But I also bet that others would be happy to compete on features and service and added value content that they would win, in the same way they have won the search market (for now.)

It really annoys me that airlines buy Airbus. But in other ways, it really is to my long term benefit as it puts increasing pressure on certain parties to improve their products in ways that keep me employed. (I hope!) (And as long as Airbus is fair competition, but that's a different story.) [All views expressed here are my own and not my employer's.... And I'm not on company time. And I really like my job! (Afraid of more than just the googlebot...]

But Dave, instead of telling me I don't have a balanced view of this, I would prefer if you, or Dan, would actually address my questions. How do Google's actions differ from the other things that I brought up? I can't differentiate them myself, but if you help me to, I think that would go along way in helping us both determine what exactly the problem is.

Thank you,

Isofarro

"Isofarro: Perhaps a good analogy is SPAM. It's up to the user or the mail server to sort out all the garbage. Great."

You've _got_ to be joking. If you believe this analogy makes any sense - don't install the toolbar, and if you failed that particular step, don't click on the AutoLink button.

I click the autolink button because I want the additional information Google offers to provide. I can stop using it at any time. Certainly not like any definition of spam I have ever seen.

The user even has to opt-in twice - before the first link is added. And can choose not to click the auto link, and even uninstall the toolbar.

User is in full control of his experience.

Isofarro

layover writes: "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..."

The visitor has clearly installed the toolbar, and clicked on the autolink button before the toolbar inserts any new links - it is a user initiated action. This is essentially a good summation of your position: http://cheerleader.yoz.com/archives/001927.html

Do you actually acknowledge the fact the visitor has a choice in this matter?

layover writes: "What stops me from developing my own toolbar for my users...and every time they visit my competitor's site...I force links within the page to link to my site?"

As long as the choice of using the toolbar rests with the user - there's nothing wrong with it. If a user of this toolbar finds the functionality you offer useful - more power to them.

layover writes: "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."

Why not put in a proper link instead? Autolink is giving users what they want - linkable maps and books.

No matter how much you chose to distort the argument, the use of AutoLink remains the choice of the browser user. They have to initially install it, and click on the autolink button before it is used. They are also free to uninstall it.

Larry Israel

Although Google has not yet released a meta tag that web authors can add to their web pages to disable Google's AutoLink (as Microsoft did with SmartTags), some web coders have already written code to disable it.

JavaScript to Kill Google Autolink
http://www.searchguild.com/autoblink/

See also:
Protect your site from Google’s new toolbar by Jeffrey Zeldman
http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0205f.shtml

jerry

If you cup your hands and hold them real close to one eye and look inside, you can see little tiny flashes of light, caused by the lidar from the nanoviruses as they battle each other. On any given day, in a minute or so, there will just be one or two flashes, remnants of the great nano war of 2012. Today though, there is quite a light show going on. It is thought that the new Victorian colony has unleased a nano-virus to battle the nano-virus released by new Hong Kong that was used to defeat the nano-virus released by Google intended to incorporate their new toolbar direct into your mirror shades.

/Channeling the Diamond Age and Snow Crash.... Read them both!

steven

"ALL OF THESE THINGS change the content from the way the publisher wanted it presented. Why are you now upset with Google?"

who says we're not upset with those shenanigans too?

Ian Lloyd

Jerry wrote:

"Could (you) help me differentiate the difference between the Google Toolbar, the bookmarklets at bookmarklets.com and the dozens (hundreds) of FireFox extensions that do all sorts of things to a page's content including emphasizing, hiding, reformatting, making links more obvious, changing the page flow, ...."

The difference is pervasiveness. The Google toolbar is a much more widely used tool than the various Firefox extensions combined. It is almost an abuse of the power that they have (almost?).

Because the current set up is to opt-out rather than opt in, and because the large majority of people who might download this toolbar will leave it as it's given to them, the autolink feature is *not* the same as the type of user who runs Firefox, makes a concerted effort to find a specific plug-in that they *opt in* to use for a very focused task.

Jerry wrote:

"Also, what does it mean that most browsers, including IE, Mozilla, and Thunderbird let me specify my own CSS which does many things to a site's content including changing formats and even hiding portions of the content?"

Again, the key thing is that the default is *not* to do that; the default is that you're given things as the designer intended, but you are given the power to suppress these options if you have the inclination. This is the opposite of what Autolink is doing.

"And I run various pop-up blockers some from Firefox, some from Microsoft, some from third parties all of which use patterns to recognize certain pieces of content and then act to remove that content from being displayed."

Opt in.

"And my Treo dramatically alters the way a page looks compressing pages and images."

But does it add links that weren't there to start with? No, it makes the best guess it can to display the page as it was designed on a small device. Not the same thing as the Autolink, once again ...

"If sites want a static page displayed only the way they wish to display it, maybe they should consider paper."

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