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AutoLink Toolbar feature looks like SmartTags
eventus




msg:1102278
 2:17 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

As an online publisher and content provider the AutoLink feature in the new version of the Google toolbar is something that I take serious and direct issue with.

You may recall that MicroSoft tried a similar concept with SmartTags and other companies have released other similar plugins that have come to collectively been called Scumware, Spyware, Adware or Malware.

Gary Price : With "AutoLink" enabled, web pages will be "enhanced" with additional links if Google thinks additional information might be helpful. For example, say your browsing a web page with numerous addresses on it. AutoLink will turn each of those addresses into direct links to the Google Maps database.

I don't want Google, or any other company for that matter, "enhancing" or otherwise modifying the page design, links or content of our pages or other intellectual property without permission and/or compensation to us.

Let's imagine that I sell books online and I list the ISBN number on the pages. AutoLink modifies the ISBN numbers that I list on my ecommerce pages and inserts a link to that books page in Amazon, my competitor... Not Good.

I am sure that this "Feature" has massive commercial appeal and potential for Google. How long will it be before Google starts offering paid partnerships to certain parters to link their data directly from your pages to theirs.

Google may claim this is useful and they will do no evil. How can we be sure? There is much to consider.

How much longer before we just let the web browser rewrite all our websites and pages..

 

communitynews




msg:1102308
 10:56 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

I don't think it matters that the user needs to hit a button to create a derivative work. Google may be facilitating copyright infringement.

bears5122




msg:1102309
 11:06 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Whatever spin you put on this, it is still spyware, and some of the most powerful in the industry. If it didn't bear the Google name, this would be throwing up flags on every anti-virus and spyware detector on the net.

I'm uncertain as to the legal ramifications something on this may hold. However, recent spyware providers have been sued and lost on similiar grounds.

I feel more people are shocked than anything that a company like Google would turn more and more into a spyware company. Although the current setup isn't that damaging to sites, you can imagine the possibilities down the road.

It seems to be yet another subtle nudge at the webmaster to say that they aren't our friends. You wonder when the public will slowly learn that Google isn't that much different ethically than your major corporations.

Fairla




msg:1102310
 11:16 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Maybe Microsoft's free anti-spyware program will start flagging the Google toolbar as adware. That will give Google pause.

To think I'd live to see the day when I wanted Microsoft to protect me from Google!

walkman




msg:1102311
 11:26 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

MSFT would've been creamed for this but :

Google does no wrong.
Google is perfect because they have many PHDs.
Google is good because they say they do no evil.
Google makes no mistakes. If your site is penalized you're a spammer or a child molester.

HughMungus




msg:1102312
 11:58 pm on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

The issue with the G toolbar function is that when the feature is activated, that clear break between the published content and the advertising disappears. Or, at the very least, the line is blurred.

I think this and the copyright issue is what will kill them. A website owner might say in court, "I don't want my website associated with Amazon.com and you might confuse my visitors into thinking that we are associated with Amazon.com". Ironically, it's the same argument that Google used against Booble.

Brett_Tabke




msg:1102313
 12:08 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

The copyright issue hasn't hurt them over caching - I seriously doubt anyone is going to get anywhere carping over a tracking number or a map link.

However, I agree with the sentiment that this is step one of a two step program to an advertising mecca.

So the issue is, have we just done the web a disservice by getting cranked up over this one? Which in turn will mean very little upset over the real feature. Reports and people alike will see it as crying wolf.

EliteWeb




msg:1102314
 12:19 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

If im interested in a book I will go to amazon to look myself, if a page links to a book ill follow it but i dont want anything modifing what im reading to impliment links. That is considered spyware to me. All the bad guys have done it, google will start with a smile only linking to directly one thing then adding new linking features and other stuff i cant even imagine.

Leave autolinking out.

sun818




msg:1102315
 12:29 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

> I don't think it matters that the user needs
> to hit a button to create a derivative work.

It means everything. The user has to make a conscious decision to click on AutoLink. That's very different from software that auto-generates a link where none existed before.

Does Google get an affiliate check for sending the ISBN link referral to Amazon?

MikeNoLastName




msg:1102316
 12:35 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Considering some of the other recent lawsuits G has been losing, I think it will be less than a week before some hefty hitters slap 'em with a class action suit for all of the reasons stated previously in this thread.

If G wins... get ready to see drop down Adsense ads straight from the G toolbar available on every page. (aw sh-- I just gave them the idea! I expect royalties now!)

tttiger776




msg:1102317
 12:37 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Re: crying wolf

While I may be trying to squelch the anger if I were a stock holder, I have to disagree. Any widely deployed *feature* that takes users off of my site will be costing me real income.

[edited by: tttiger776 at 1:29 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2005]

Hanu




msg:1102318
 12:50 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

We need to stop thinking of a webpage as an atomic entity. If the user wishes, it will be cached, ad-ified, styled, mangled, snooped, tracked, enhanced and what not.

I myself think that the G-Bar has become quite some piece of witchware. As encyclo said earlier, if the G-bar was made by G, it would be on the radar of every single Anti-Spyware tool on this planet. So stop complaining to Google, start educating your users. Let them decide whether the toolbar's ability to perform searches on the fly is worth the privacy intrusion and page obfuscation that come with it.

EliteWeb




msg:1102319
 12:56 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

sun818, even if they were to i bet they would not get an affiliate id passed along and that it would look as they were not. Or they would get a ten bajillion-million dollar check each month to do so.

herewego




msg:1102320
 12:57 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just for curiosity because of all the ISDN references in this thread, I searched harry potter, and found a link just a few down to a public library (USA) that has a guide to the books, including listing all the fictional places mentioned in them. Two clicks only. The "Autolink" on the toolbar had changed to "Look For Map" and listed 3 addresses, including two fictional ones (the other one was the website contact address), which had been ammended to a genuine Rochester NY address and a genuine Pennsylvania address by adding genuine address details, even gave directions to them. Hmmm... how long before the tourist coaches come swinging by these poor suckers homes? Bet they'll love Google, it'll be fun if they can afford a good lawyer!

alpine




msg:1102321
 12:58 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Maybe Microsoft's free anti-spyware program will start flagging the Google toolbar as adware. That will give Google pause.

Beautiful idea, Fairla! I hope MS is reading this thread.

nonstop




msg:1102322
 1:37 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

imagine if MS released a toolbar to change google's SERPs I bet google wouldn't be too happy about it. of course it will come as standard in the next release of IE7 and MS next OS.

graywolf




msg:1102323
 1:47 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

What if Google was to now approach B&N and say we can hook you into our new tool bar for all ISBN searches for $moremoneythanIcanimagine for the next 12 months.

fixed typo

[edited by: graywolf at 2:19 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2005]

BertieB




msg:1102324
 1:48 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

When I see debates like this, it makes me think there is more to it than just the potential revenue lost through users escaping to the likes of maps; (though if you ever touch any of MY users...) there is the bigger issue of control. While this has been touched on in this thread, I think there is something bigger at stake: control of the internet at large.

As I see it, there is currently something of a standoff between the webmasters and the search engines. The webmasters feel they control the net since they control the content. The SEs believe they control it since they direct the users. And while some webmasters might claim that it is primarily the content that matters, there have been innumerable discussions on how to rank well/make money/move up the rankings/etc with Google, Yahoo, et al. So there is more to control than just good content. Which all of us already knew of course :)

What about the other groups? The users themselves will affect a site's success. The people running the various backbones, routing technologies, and so forth also have a claim.

But, uh, back the the topic.

This feature of the Google toolbar - as with smart tags - takes an element of control away from the webmaster and places it in the hands of Google. It is interfering with the design we have created for our sites. As nonstop says, if MS interfered with Google's SERPS they would be in trouble faster than you can say "sued!".

But copyright and potential interference will unfortunately only be resolved with a lawsuit. These issues aside, is this alteration of control a fundamentally bad thing? For webmasters, a vehement YES. For Google and the users that use the feature of the toolbar, perhaps not.

So who is right - us or them?

...I vote us :)

encyclo




msg:1102325
 1:50 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

So the issue is, have we just done the web a disservice by getting cranked up over this one? Which in turn will mean very little upset over the real feature. Reports and people alike will see it as crying wolf.

At what point should we call it, Brett? As it stands today, if I go to Barnes and Noble and use the toolbar to get extra information on an ISBN, I get an auto-inserted link to a competing site. Google haven't selected Amazon because they're concerned for the latter's mounting losses - they undoubtedly have a financial agreement where Google is using third-party content to hijack visitors and redirect them to Amazon. So what if you have to press a little button to get the link? We all know click-through agreements are never read, so all the average user knows is that the links are information only. They may well not realise that they have been thrown to a different site.

The Google Toolbar has always been spyware: in the old days it existed to feed Google's thirst for data, which they bought with pop-up blockers and little green bars. This is step two: adding one-click scumware links to commercial partners. The thirst is not for data now, although Google still have a voracious appetite for that: the thirst is for cash, as their new status as a publicly-listed company demands. Step three, as you say, is advertizing nirvana. At least no-one can say we didn't warn them.

I hope Google likes lawsuits, because this toolbar could well attract a few.

sun818




msg:1102326
 2:15 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

> Google haven't selected Amazon because they're
> concerned for the latter's mounting losses -
> they undoubtedly have a financial agreement

In defense of Amazon, I must say they have the best collection of reviews and supporting documents for books. Webmasters always say "content is king". I also would not be surprised if there was [b]no[b] financial agreement.

Memphiz




msg:1102327
 2:27 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

When I -as a user- install and then use a browser it is for the purpose of browsing through online content according to my gut-felt preference at the time.

When a Webmaster places hyperlinks in his pages he or she does so because it is the VERY ESSENCE of the web. Hyper-linking a document to another is a modern form of communication and expression - it is an essential component of 21st-century "freedom of speech and expression".

Therefore, manipulating the content displayed by my browsing tool and changing the experience of the media without the originator's/ author's consent is utterly deceitful and wrong!

Thanks 'eventus' for making that point!

Clark




msg:1102328
 3:01 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Ah, the classic bait and switch.

Laser focus on search, which sends webmasters free traffic without charging anyone a penny turns into laser focus on making money any which way, from content on google's sites to webmasters' sites.

And now instead of sending us free traffic they'll only do it for adwords ca$h and to rub it in they take traffic away from us to send to them. Talk about turning things around. Brilliant! Bravo Google, wish I had as much business sense.

max_mm




msg:1102329
 3:03 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Having your content changed or linked directly on you pages WITHOUT your prior consent and any compensation agreement with the party responsible for doing that is in plain English:

"An abuse of your intellectual properties and copy rights!"

Webmaster should take a strong stance regarding such actions. The control over what should be linked from your content reserved to you only and no other third party should interfere with that without your prior consent.

As Iíve always said regarding google since they first went public:

Watch them and beware, they are attempting to corner the entire web...while still enjoying our support. This will come buck to hunt us all further down the track.

"Do no evil" my B......

[edited by: max_mm at 3:12 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2005]

Brett_Tabke




msg:1102330
 3:08 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree encyclo/Tttiger, but I think at this point, it is premature and the public/press will not understand our concern this time, and write off webmasters/site owners with valid concerns that may or may not come later.

HughMungus




msg:1102331
 4:36 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree encyclo/Tttiger, but I think think at this point, it is premature and the public/press will not understand our concern this time, and write off webmasters/site owners with valid concerns that may or may not come later.

Until, in line with someone's earlier example, Barnes & Noble sues Google. What comes after books?

Regarding caching, they haven't been sued *yet* (but it's still illegal as evidenced by the many DMCA actions that have occurred).

shri




msg:1102332
 7:01 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

>> I agree encyclo/Tttiger, but I think think at this point, it is premature and the public/press will not understand our concern this time, and write off webmasters/site owners with valid concerns that may or may not come later.

But spyware companies, that throw up alarm bells when they detect an Alexa installation can come forward and explain what is going on, to their users.

Soso




msg:1102333
 7:40 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>> Therefore, manipulating the content displayed by my browsing tool and changing the experience of the media without the originator's/ author's consent is utterly deceitful and wrong! <<<

I have different opinion. I, as a surfer, can view the online content however I want, using any tool I want. I may switch off inline images, ads, css formating...it's my choice which kind of "experience" I want. I also can install tool, which will change some static texts in the content into hyperlinks, like Google toolbar3. You do not have any control of that, and that is the way WWW works!

On the WWW, there is no such thing as "intended experience of the media". Even the word "media" is not correct. The WWW was originaly created as a platform for free exchange of information. Later, some smart people like us here, capitalized on the popularity of the web and made their bussinesses around it. But it is still just a platform for information exchange, not a media. You just can't force web surfers, how they should "experience" your webpages...

amznVibe




msg:1102334
 7:56 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

One key point is that as long as the user is make completely aware that they are altering the web page the are viewing, they are allowed to do whatever they want.

For example some of us have code to automatically highlight NOFOLLOW links. We are therefore allowing the browser to alter the original page as we see it. Now of course we inserted that outselves, but if a toolbar came out with this option and we installed it after being told it would do that - what's the problem?

I use an extension that inserts webpage images to the left of Google results. That's altering their original page. But that's my informed choice? Same issue?

I have a bigger problem with Google trying to auto-update the toolbar without asking/telling me first. Even if I am told in the agreement that the toolbar may update at some future point, I should be alerted (and ASKED) BEFORE any software is installed or overwitten on my computer.

As far as privacy issues, if you are still allowing REFERERs in your browser, you are telling every new website you go to where you've been. I don't see any warnings coming with IE or Firefox that you are doing this - especially since it's on by default.

plumsauce




msg:1102335
 8:39 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Google must have anticipated a backlash

um, unbounded arrogance tends to be a bit blinding to the corporate types

remember security problems in gmail?

remember security problems in desktop search?

these people are used to doing exactly what they want and damn the focus groups. what focus groups?

you now have a company run by academics and corporate talking heads. neither of these groups is reknowned for their ability to grasp the real world.

In order for AutoLink to work, you have to click Show #*$!#*$! Info on the toolbar

the name is AutoLink, how long before they start shipping with the default on?

And what about the phoning home features?

And now instead of sending us free traffic they'll only do it for adwords ca$h

i recently mused about the joy of seeing a growing swell of webmasters willing to list googlebot in their robots.txt, maybe the answer is .htaccess.

it wouldn't be the first time in history that a search engine was declared personal non grata by legions of webmasters.

without the ability to scrape, a search engine is effectively gutted.

++

[edited by: plumsauce at 8:49 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2005]

Namaste




msg:1102336
 8:47 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

This brings us to a very impoortant question:

IS THE GOOGLE MODEL SUSTAINABLE

Google's model is based on "indexing the world's information" and linking it to commercial results. The problem is that there is only so much information that is part of the public domain; and only so much information that information that is re-packageable.

Is Google running out of acceptable usage of information?

plumsauce




msg:1102337
 8:55 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

This brings us to a very impoortant question:
IS THE GOOGLE MODEL SUSTAINABLE

and furthermore, are they even able to perform their purported core competency of presenting the *best* search results?

it's a house of cards, and the spring winds are coming.

Wlauzon




msg:1102338
 9:04 am on Feb 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

The toolbar is not spyware because you can turn that function off.

This 168 message thread spans 6 pages: < < 168 ( 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 > >
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