Danny Sullivan has written an in-depth article here Google Toolbar’s AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out. It’s a long piece, but well worth the read and includes a few comments from Google’s Director of Consumer Web Products – Marissa Mayer.
I found the article to be fair and informative. I especially connected to Danny’s comments here:
My response to the “protect the user experience” argument is pretty blunt. Too bad if it is harmed in this case, from Google’s perspective.
They may be Google’s users, but they are also my users as a publisher as well. If my visitors are upset that my site prevents them from using Google AutoLink, they can tell and lobby me directly. I don’t need Google deciding for me what my users want on my web site.
Google would gain on the public relations front from offering an opt-out. Even better, I’d encourage them to lobby for a single standard type of opt-out that other publishers could support such as through a robots.txt file extension that works for everyone. That would be real leadership in the industry and in line with the software principles statement it started last year.
I asked myself: Who has more entitlement to the ‘User’? Is it the ISP who provides an internet connection to the user, or is it the Browser which provides the tool to view online content? Is it the BHO (Browser Helper Object) or Toolbar that is added to the Browser? Or is it the Publisher who provides the content to the visitor?
Who holds claim to the ‘User’? Whose User is it? The visitor is using more than one tool to go from point A to point B:
We each play a role in helping the visitor to the information that interests them, we each have our jobs. However this BHO (the Google Toolbar) is overstepping from BHO and into Published Content by sabotaging the intent of the Publisher, and *will continue to overstep*. Today it’s directing traffic to Amazon. What will tomorrow bring? (And btw – how *did* Amazon get to be the lucky *chosen* one?)
I too second Danny’s suggestion:
Even better, I’d encourage them to lobby for a single standard type of opt-out that other publishers could support such as through a robots.txt file extension that works for everyone.
That way *both* the Publisher and the User have a choice.
Thanks to ThreadWatch for the heads up on Danny’s article.