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The Google Honeymoon is Over - Salvador Dali in a lawn chair.
I'm invisible without 3D glasses.
The Google Honeymoon is Over
I like Google, a lot. They do good things. They do cool things. They give their employees time during their work week to work on personal projects. They're minimalists who put function over form. They build toolbars that block pop-ups. They've pioneered tasteful internet ads. They're quirky. They have a sense of humor. I've always liked them.

But now the honeymoon is over. They've done that made me do a double take. Was this the Google I'd always revered?

Google ToolBar version three is in beta now. It contains a new feature called Autolink that recognizes information, like ISBN's and addresses. Upon turning on the feature, Autolink takes those bits of information and makes a link out of them to, say, amazon.com where that book is being sold. It alters the webpage and replaces the text with a link, a link that takes the reader away from the site and allows the to buy instead through Google's kickback tracking. So websites that are supported by kickbacks from redirected sales or advertising links to other sites will potentially lose money as it's diverted to Google.

It feels like an abuse. I'm angry, yes, but I'm also shocked. I don't know why I'm shocked. I should have known, but I'd placed Google on a pedestal as a paragon of business virtue, an example of a business that could make absurd profits but never compromise on issues of unobtrusive advertising and putting content-creators first. Until now I didn't mind that Google was big, really really big, and could affect so much with just a change of code. Many people are comparing this to Microsoft's Smart Tags.

Conversely, the reader has to actively select the AutoLink button to activate the feature, which means that they still have a choice. If they didn't want to buy from your site, they wouldn't have anyway.

AutoLink does, however, take advantage of reader laziness. If they don't want to look for a link themselves, Google will do it for them. And by exploiting reader laziness, they will be able to scoop up a lot of extra revenue that might otherwise be going to the content-creators.

mood: disappointed disappointed
music: rain

5 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft
exblogger From: exblogger Date: February 23rd, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC) (link)
Does AutoLink modify existing hyperlinks, as well?

I wouldn't think they'd do something like that, due to the exact loss-of-revenue reaction you foresee. I don't think they're that greedy.

I've, personally, never used the google toolbar. By the time it came out, I was already a Mozilla (and later Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox) purist, and the functionality offered by the toolbar is mostly redundant.

lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: February 23rd, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC) (link)
::nod nod:: I use Mozilla, too, for tabbed browsing, which has become indespensible to me.

However, we tried it out last night on the laptop, which does have the google toolbar installed (we didn't do the installation, it was a work hand-me-down). It didn't affect anything on my sites, since the amazon.com links I have don't have ISBNs on them. AutoLink did turn a Barnes & Noble ISBN into a link, but it wasn't already a link. I'll try it out again later tonight and see if it will change a pre-existing link.
alcamar From: alcamar Date: February 23rd, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC) (link)
One question on the functionality. Once you click to activate autolink, does it stay active even after the browser closes?
If so, then yes, while they still have the choice, once it's activated I'm sure that they wouldn't be able to tell if that link was due to the toolbar or part of the original site. And if it changes existing links, then it's exceptionally evil.

I've always enjoyed google as well, but I did keep in the back of my mind that they are a business, that it's only a matter of time before the evil comes out.
haabda From: haabda Date: February 23rd, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC) (link)
You can't really blame them for taking advantage of people's laziness. Some of the biggest moneymakers in this world make money from laziness. It is not the corporations' fault, it is the people who purchase and use their products. (Well, in the case of the bastard tobacco companies, it is their fault.)

Examples: TV, Wal-Mart, the internet in general. Why bother going to the library when you can just sit in front of your computer and look it up?
From: discordanian Date: March 11th, 2005 01:30 am (UTC) (link)
Google will have a way of suprising you. Look at this latest response to a questionable tactic they took. http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1774677,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594
5 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft