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This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 187 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >     
Google Toolbar AutoUpdate Includes AutoLink Feature On
Are Webmasters Losing Control of their Websites?
martinibuster




msg:1101629
 7:26 am on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Google forced an update to their toolbar that activated an autolink button feature by default. What this means is that this button, when activated, will allow Google to place links on your web page to Amazon, among other places.

The autolink feature has been controversial [theregister.co.uk] since it came out. In fact, there's a javascript for killing google autolink, which indicates how much webmasters are against the autolink feature.

It's surprising to see Google pushing this onto toolbar users like myself who don't want it. Unlike non-webmaster users, they may not know how to disable it.

Does Google's use of your website exceed what you feel comfortable with?

 

DoppyNL




msg:1101749
 9:43 am on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

You know, if Google would have done this for the user looking at the page, and their primary reason is to help the user find vital information.

Then they would have linked to a website of a large library or something, that contains ALL information about books.
That way the user would be able to find more information about the book.
The fact that they are linking to amazon clearly shows that they are in it to make money out of it.
and THAT is what I as a webmaster don't want.

sudden




msg:1101750
 10:06 am on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

<side_note> No GoogleGuy around when you need him. The Google PR guys just sit and watch, crossing fingers no main stream media gets the story. </side_note>

jecasc




msg:1101751
 11:19 am on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have a small bookstore as a customer. He pays several thousands a year for Google Adwords advertising.

I do not think he will be happy about a toolbar feature that steals his customers. Especially not when seconds before he has payed Google a lot of money to get them on his site.

Now its books and ISBN numbers. What will be next?

MatthewHSE




msg:1101752
 11:40 am on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Suppose somebody clicks on those ISBN links..
Does Amazon (or whoever) open up in a NEW window, or the same window,
so that the back button returns to my book page? -Larry

It's the same window by default, but if anyone cares to change the toolbar preferences, they can set AutoLink links to open in a new window.

<side_note> No GoogleGuy around when you need him. The Google PR guys just sit and watch, crossing fingers no main stream media gets the story. </side_note>

And even if mainstream media does get the story, Google will just "punish" them by refusing to speak to them [nytimes.com] for a year or so.

jecasc




msg:1101753
 12:16 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just talked to my customer who sells books online. He is not very pleased.

I mean this is a joke.

1. Google charges money for adwords to get people on his website where he sells his books.

2. Google uses the information on the website to generate links to Amazon.

3. Customers might leave the website by Googles generated links and buy at Amazon.

3. Google gets money from Amazon.

That is clearly a huge conflict of interest.

Imagine you pay a marketing company to create and print some flyers for your store and distribute them.

Then you find out that the marketing company has printed the address and prices of your competitor on the back of the flyer you payed for and gets a share in every sell your competitor makes.

I hope someone sues google about this. Unfortunately my customer is too small, I do not think he can afford to take legal action.

SeanW




msg:1101754
 12:32 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

As a webmaster, all you own is the content of the page. The user owns the presentation.

Remember that "M" in HTML? ***MARKUP***. A suggestion. "Please bold this" is what it means.

A few other things, because I've already said this before when the feature first came out.

If you don't want the link to be added to the ISBN, add one yourself. If the ISBN is already inside an anchor tag, the toolbar won't change it. You don't need JavaScript. With the href in place, the user has to click the button on the toolbar, and then from the resulting pulldown select the book, since the original link will be unchanged.

If you don't wan't users going elsewhere, provide the information yourself. If there's one thing I have learned from this site is that sales result from people giving the customer what they want. If the user wants to go elsewhere, you don't deserve the sale.

Sean

hfwd




msg:1101755
 12:58 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I confess I didn't read the full 13 pages of thread, but let me ask this question: so how is this different than Gator?

jecasc




msg:1101756
 12:59 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>If you don't want the link to be added to the ISBN, add one yourself. If the ISBN is already inside an anchor tag, the toolbar won't change it.<<

Great idea. I will immediately submit an offer to my customer to change all the ISBN numbers on his webpage to useless links leading nowhere because the ISBN numbers are already on the book pages they belong to.

I would agree with all you said if Google would not been selling Adwords.

But selling advertisement and then taking advantage by the information provided on the webpage the ads lead to to generate sales for themselves is not ok.

Google is making money of the website with the Amazon links and my customer is even paying them for this.

Great business model: Collecting money twice.

MatthewHSE




msg:1101757
 1:13 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

If the ISBN is already inside an anchor tag, the toolbar won't change it.

Not true, at least not always. On the page I tested, the ISBN was part of an existing link, but it was AutoLinked all the same.

SeanW




msg:1101758
 1:19 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)


Not true, at least not always. On the page I tested, the ISBN was part of an existing link, but it was AutoLinked all the same.

Odd, I just tested the following:

ISBN: <a href="http://example.com">0937552143</a>

and got the exact behaviour I described.

Sean

webdev




msg:1101759
 1:25 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Do we know that they are getting paid an affiliate referal fee for sending the traffic through. - I have looked at the links and do not see any obvious tracking URL's

There are a number of companies involved here namely

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Sense
Yahoo Maps
Google Maps
Froogle
Worldcat
CarFax
Autocheck
Mapquest

If anyone is affiliates of these it may well be worth approaching them for their view on this.

If there are any top earning Amazon affiliates out there it may be worth speaking to your reps to find out their position on this.

I agree with most of what has been said about future use of this feature - especially the movement into Games, CD's and everything else you can buy at the likes of Amazon.

If I ran a book affiliate store I would be very very annoyed at this and even more worried about what the future holds...speak to your affiliate reps and let them know how you feel so that this can be worked on from both sides...

I'm sure if enough affiliates start to kick up a stink then they may well rethink their association with the Autolink feature...

MatthewHSE




msg:1101760
 1:38 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

SeanW, I'm interested in this question. The links I tested were in the following format:

<a href="/url.html">Book Title (ISBN NUMBER HERE)</a>

In other words, the ISBN was not the only text in the link. In this case, it was definitely AutoLinked by the Google toolbar (I can send a URL if you want - sticky me if you're interested).

Your example, however, has the ISBN all by itself in an anchor tag, and they weren't AutoLinked. Could the fact that the ISBN was the only linked text have anything to do with the AutoLink behavior?

SeanW




msg:1101761
 1:50 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

MatthewHSE,

Maybe I'm on crack here, but I tried both absolute and relative links, and with and without text inside the anchor... Same thing. I'll sticky you the url...

Sean

chadmg




msg:1101762
 2:24 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've had all of these features with Opera already for an age now.

By default you can select text and then from the right-click menu do things such as Go to URL, look the word up in a dictionary, or search with a selection of search engines, eBay, or Amazon. I find them extremely convenient and use them quite frequently.

That's right, I can go to your website, select the ISBN number on your page, and right click and select Search with Amazon.com and buy the book from them instead of your affiliate. I don't want to buy from your sketchy affiliate. I want to buy from my trusted website that already has my customer data. If that feature didn't exist, it would just take me longer to do my intended action.

The only gripe I see is that by Google doing this, the average Joe Schmoe who doesn't know his CD drive is not a cup holder will realize he doesn't need to buy from your basement store just because you're the store he found during his search. And this may make it harder for the little guy to make a buck. This is absolutely a valid concern, but you can't control your users' actions. The user has to deliberatley click on the AutoLink button. If they want to buy from Amazon or any other store instead of yours, you can't stop them. Instead you can offer them better service and/or better prices.

ugamis1




msg:1101763
 2:26 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well I called and did my part from an AdWords Advertisers point of view. We would probably be considered a medium to large spend advertiser with AdWords. I just explained my concern to my rep cordially that if the toolbar expanded to other products that might include keywords on my Web site that we would not be willing to continue to spend our money with AdWords to drive traffic.

wrgvt




msg:1101764
 2:34 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

OK, I just updated my Google toolbar and I see this feature. Nothing shows up on my book review site. The only place the ISBN is anywhere on any page on my site is as part of the javascript link to amazon, and AutoLink doesn't find it there. I checked a few other amazon affiliate book sites and didn't see any places where AutoLink found something to link. I went to a well known book site that lists the ISBN with their book reviews and saw the AutoLink option where they had:

ISBN: XXXXXXXXX

Somehow Goggle has to know that 10-digit number isn't any oridnary 10-digit number and is actually the ISBN. So does it key off the ISBN keyword? If any affiliate site leaves off the ISBN information, does AutoLink find nothing to link? I can't imagine any significant percentage of web visitors really cares what the ISBN is.

SeanW




msg:1101765
 2:49 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Somehow Goggle has to know that 10-digit number isn't any oridnary 10-digit number and is actually the ISBN. So does it key off the ISBN keyword? If any affiliate site leaves off the ISBN information, does AutoLink find nothing to link?

An ISBN has a checksum built in, so I'm assuming it runs any 10 or 13 digit numbers found on the page through that to see. As a test I added 1 to an ISBN link that worked, and autolink ignored it.

And, for the second question, yes, it won't touch the display of the page.

Sean

georgemanty




msg:1101766
 4:59 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have never posted here before and occasionaly stop by to see what is going on. This issue in particular has me intrigued.

I went to eBay with autolink turned on. I found some books people were selling and sure enough the ISBNs were linked to Amazon. If I was selling those books I would be upset. If I was eBay I would be upset. Presumably, eBay knows about this and have not sued Google over this (yet), so presumably it is ok from a legal standpoint.

In that case, why doesn't someone create a toolbar to make Search better? Nobody is ever completely satisified with their search results, so someone could create a toolbar that complements the Search results you get from the major Search Engines.

In fact, eBay should do this. eBay could dynamically add links to products that are sold on eBay into the Search Results and at the top of the PPC ads. It would be an opt-in service that a lot of eBay customers would like. They could also work on some filters to create better search results as well. To keep their affiliates happy if an eBay PPC ad already appeared in the search results eBay's tooblar would refrain from adding it's links to the Search Results. If Google's toolbar is legally fine, then eBay should be able to do this with out legal repurcussions. Of course, I would expect this from Yahoo, Alexa, and Microsoft as well.

I am not a copyright lawyer, so let's say that what Google is doing is generally ok from a legal standpoint. Can Google use my content to link to things I find morally objectionable? Let's say that I find Amazon morally objectional, can my content be used to link to them?

What if I change my site's terms of service to specifically state that no browser or toolbar can alter and/or add to the content on my site without my consent?

Lastly, most websites terms of service say something like the following (this is taken verbatim from one of my websites):

"You may access and view the Content (as defined below) appearing on this Website for personal, non-commercial use only. You may download and/or copy certain portions of the Content for personal, non-commercial use only, provided that you (a) retain all copyright, trademark or other proprietary notices contained on the Content, (b) do not modify or alter the Content in any way and (c) do not make the Content available to any third party (except for articles with reprint permission bylines). We reserve complete title and full intellectual property rights in any Content that you download from this Website. "

I am not a lawyer, but it seems like Autolink is violating (b) above.

I would be very interested in a lawyers point of view on all of this.

arubicus




msg:1101767
 5:41 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

"I would be very interested in a lawyers point of view on all of this."

It would be interesting no doubt since most of us have the same such and such in our TOS. But how would that be enforced? You would have to go after the maker of the software to stop anything.

I would like yahoo or ebay or even MSN to create a toolbar the adds advertising and content links within google's search results. I wonder if lawsuits would be flying if that were to happen.

walkman




msg:1101768
 5:46 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

safe to say that when money is lost, people will sue.

I don't see how it's legal to essentially modify your site--without your consent--and then lead your visitors to another merchant. It will be interesting to watch.

wrgvt




msg:1101769
 6:04 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm trying to figure out how Google makes money from this. If you click an AutoLink to amazon, there is no affiliate code as part of the amazon URL, although it looks like it redirects from somewhere else first. So what's in it for Google besides "enhancing the user experience?" Does amazon or Barnes & Noble pay Google for these links? I would imagine so.

This must work for the partner sites because the ISBN is part of the destination URL, so they can build the link easily. What if my book reviews site had the ISBN as part of the URL for each individual book page? Could I partner with Google? Could I build my own tool bar for my site's visitors? I could tell them to install it and whenever they visit another site that has an ISBN for which I have a page, I can build an AutoLink for them right to my site. Any browser could have multiple toobars built this way for their favorites sites eventually. Whether this is a good thing or not . . .

ugamis1




msg:1101770
 6:16 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

-> Maybe Google is running this as a test for now and are not making money.

-> Maybe Amazon payed Google X number of dollars to perform this test

-> Maybe Amazon is paying a CPM for this.

-> Maybe they have some sort of fancy tracking system we just don't see and Google gets payed a %

arubicus




msg:1101771
 6:22 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

"I don't see how it's legal to essentially modify your site--without your consent--and then lead your visitors to another merchant."

Neither do I. Google has the ability to go further with this no doubt. The thing is if nothing is done then it will be here to stay. It will become accepted as "natural" then a little more will be attempted in the future then if nothing is done it too will be accepted. Then again and again.

Google doing this extends the invitation for MSN, Yahoo, and any other major player will hop on in virtually extending this to the BULK of internet users who use toolbars. As it gets accepted, it may pave for highly used browsers to have this built-in feature and eventually to have the feature run AUTOMATICALLY (under the guise of "the use of the brower is opt-in"). What MSN was once scolded for may now change. IF and when this happens virtually all internet users will have this function (many automatic). Then you will see the effects on a much larger scale. But who is to say this will happen. Take a look at history and make your own assumptions.

bears5122




msg:1101772
 7:03 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm trying to figure out how Google makes money from this

They probably aren't right now. My guess is that this is just a test and them putting their toe in the water. If they withstand the fire storm, they'll move further.

I guess my concern is that this can be pushed so much further. Will we soon see high priced keywords on our site being hyperlinked to Google search result pages? Will they be placing adsense ads on the white space of our own sites? This could change how we surf the net from here on out if they continue to develop this.

My hope is that Yahoo! and MSN don't follow suit. As long as we have companies that respect webmasters, I don't think Google will get too far out of hand.

Does anyone think Google is on the verge of having that happy PR bubble pop? Reporters get tired of stories about what they cook their engineers for lunch. Eventually someone is going to dig deep and throw up some dirt.

twist




msg:1101773
 7:24 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Interesting,

I used the auto-link feature on Amazon to take me to the same book on Barnes & Noble and Booksense, the auto-link doesn't work on Barnes & Noble and Booksense, it does work on Froogle. Have Booksense and Barnes & Noble blocked the toolbar?

Why would a toolbar designed to send people to Booksense and Barnes & Noble not work at Booksense and Barnes & Noble? Im guessing one of the following.

Either,

1) The toolbar was so poorly designed that google didn't even test to see if it worked on two of the websites it sends people to

2) Google gave them some code to block the toolbar, even though they didn't offer it to anyone else

Which only leaves two possible answers,

1) Google has incredibly sloppy programmers and testers

2) Google is doing evil :)

Josefu




msg:1101774
 1:12 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I can't agree with this AutoLink function at all, for a point that Google seems to be missing. If my site is Victoria's secret and I have gone through a lot of work to draw a potential client there (decor, advertising of my own, etc), how would I feel if, once he's in my velvet grotto, he sees ads for other wares - and perhaps the competition's - In my very store?

The worst part about this is that Google provides only the user with the option of enabling or disabling this feature, and that the site owner must resort to an independently-developed tactic to block it. With the development of something as intrusive as AutoLink, shouldn't have Google developed a metatag {or something} for site owners who want not to be intruded upon?

I do very much like what Google does for my site by listing it, but the price I pay in exchange for that service is getting heavier and heavier it seems. If I chose to not participate in AdWords and AdSense, granted I would not be earning them any revenue in exchange for my being listed, but with AutoLink Google pushes its revenue-earning potential to every site it crawls. In the above exchange there is a line between my freeloading from them and their freeloading from me; Though I don't know exactly where to draw it, I feel that through AutoLink it's been pushed a fair way in my direction.

I participate in AdSense and AdWords, so I cannot very well block Googlebot. As it stands, my question is this: will I be somehow penalised if I resort to the javascript AutoLink-blocking procedure?

ac112




msg:1101775
 3:20 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm now seeing the latest version too. As SpikeyRob pointed out, the "New! Enable Google Desktop Search" link does not appear to be removable.

SpikeyRob




msg:1101776
 6:48 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

And I just want to re-iterate, because Joesfu might have missed my post, AutoLink doesn't just effect Google crawled sites, it effects every site on the internet. Even if you ban Googlebot.

I removed the toolbar today. You get a screen that asks you why you're removing their toolbar. I told them why.

SeanW, your statement concerns me. "As a webmaster, all you own is the content of the page. The user owns the presentation."

But doesn't the manipulation of a website constitute the creation of a derivitive work, which I gave no permission to create? And a link contains a url, which is a website address, which is information, which is content. So adding a link in my website is changing my content, not it's presentation, as far as I'm concerned.

bhonda




msg:1101777
 8:42 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I know it's slightly off topic, but the 'New! Desktop Search Toolbar' icon can be removed just by clicking on it and choosing no, or not yet, or whatever it says.
I don't want to patronise anyone here, it's just that I spent half an hour last night trying to get rid of it!
J

Boaz




msg:1101778
 9:05 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

"I would like yahoo or ebay or even MSN to create a toolbar the adds advertising and content links within google's search results. I wonder if lawsuits would be flying if that were to happen."

Right, I hope that Yahoo/MSN will incorporate that into their next toolbar version. If they will, I will install their toolbars:

1. A toolbar option where whenever someone does a search at Google or one of its search partners, replaces Google Adwords with Yahoo Search Marketing or MSN ads (of course, the user will have to click on a button to enable this feature :)).

2. A toolbar option where any site with Google Adsense on it will have the ads replaced with Yahoo/MSN ads.

Any arguments Google uses to justify Autlink can be used to justify these functions.

uk_webber




msg:1101779
 12:51 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

google is n't altering your HTML in any way - it is all clent side so completely legit in my book!

Do 'view source' on any google linked page and they'll be no autolink text..

This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 187 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >
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