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ACAP Enabled Sites - What's Google's policy?

 12:20 pm on Jul 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

I notice that some newspapers are now becoming ACAP enabled sites.


Just wondering what the state of play is with this. Anyone here using it? Does it affect rankings? Is it worth implementing to get the maximum return for unique content, etc? Interested on where people stand with this and how Google treats it.


Robert Charlton

 3:57 am on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some background on this for those who are unfamiliar with ACAP...

ACAP stands for "Automated Content Access Protocol"... [en.wikipedia.org...]

Automated Content Access Protocol ("ACAP") was proposed in 2006 as a method of providing machine-readable permissions information for content, in the hope that it would have allowed automated processes (such as search-engine web crawling) to be compliant with publishers' policies without the need for human interpretation of legal terms....

Google's policy, was described by IT Wire in 2008, quoting Eric Schmidt...
...ACAP is a standard proposed by a set of people who are trying to solve the problem [of communicating content access permissions]. We have some people working with them to see if the proposal can be modified to work in the way our search engines work. At present it does not fit with the way our systems operate."

Per the above Wikipedia article...
No non-ACAP members, whether publishers or search engines, have adopted it so far.

Robert Charlton

 4:04 am on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

PS to the above...

The above link to the official ACAP site is apparently correct, but the site doesn't seem to be loading. Here's a link to the canonical version of the domain....


The Google cache also currently doesn't display.


 5:11 am on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Not sure what the problem was. Its working fine for me. Just to show some mainstream media implementations:




It seems like the current implementations are fairly simple and publishers aren't yet fully exploiting ACAP. Obviously the standard is only as good as Google's support. The current version is 1.1. I'm guessing Google probably doesn't want to support it. I like the idea of it though. It seems like a much more granular version of robots.txt and gives publishers a lot more options and more control over content. I'd really like to see this gain some traction.

I'm getting the feeling that not many publishers know about this and that the search engines want to keep it that way.

Here is a list of supporters from March 2010 - linked on the ACAP FAQ page:


@Robert Charlton - Seeing how Eric Schmidt made that comment in 2008, I wonder what their current policy is?

Robert Charlton

 6:02 am on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

The ACAP site link is working now. Absolutely wasn't earlier.

Seeing how Eric Schmidt made that comment in 2008, I wonder what their current policy is?

The 2008 comment was the last I could find. I have no position on this... was simply laying out an overview to facilitate discussion.

The question of remuneration for content is, I feel, a vital one. I know that there are people who agree with that, but who nevertheless don't think that ACAP is a workable approach.


 6:20 am on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm sure the current implementation isn't where everyone would like to be, but it seems to me that it has enough gravity to suck in a lot more supporters who would support an improved implementation.

If Bing were to move on this and forge a more cooperative approach with publishers, then Google might begin to feel some pressure. The current problem is that it probably isn't on the radar, even though its sitting quietly on a lot of robots.txt files. The way I see it, ACAP just needs some publicity.


 10:00 pm on Jul 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

When I scanned the proposal a while back it seemed to me a beginning but did not cover enough possibilities and wasn't versatile enough.

Which probably doesn't matter since SEs probably don't want to support such a thing anyway as it could too closely restrict their "rights" to our content.


 5:27 am on Jul 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well if this is ever going to work then it will depend on newspapers to push it. Most publishers don't seem to really care about the issue as far as I can tell.

Robert Charlton

 6:53 am on Jul 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think the issue is implementation. For those interested in the issues with ACAP, I recommend this Jan 2008 article in ars technica...

A skeptical look at the Automated Content Access Protocol [arstechnica.com]

ars technica survives on advertising revenue, is owned by a major publishing chain, and can hardly be considered pro search engine or anti-publisher. Its take on ACAP is fairly typical of the reviews of the protocol that I've seen.

Integrating ACAP into existing web sites is trivially easy for publishers, but... poses some serious implementation challenges for search engines.

As a voluntary standard, ACAP will undoubtedly fail unless it is completely overhauled to simplify implementation and provide a better balance between the privileges it apportions between search engines and publishers.


 9:47 am on Jul 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

My visitors couldn't care less about this so I'm not going to burden them with it. In fact even if they did care I wouldn't promote a protocol that adds more layers of red tape to the internet anyway. I can monitor for abuse of my content already and don't need to empower acap or anyone else to take over that job.

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