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Personally, I use the toolbar quite often when deciding if it is worthwhile (or possibly even of detriment) to request a link from another site.
As I see it though, PR in the toolbar seldom benefits average users in any way as they are unaware of its' purpose. For myself, the PR indicator adds at least some level of credibilty to a site, in a certain sense, showing that they are seen as a good resource by others, or at the very least that they are aware of good business practice on the web and have taken the time to optimize their site to obtain higher PR.
I think at some point G is going to have to nip this little problem in the bud before it becomes quite widespead. I really don't think they would want to remove it from the algorithm as it is a key component in establishing the quality results that we are all so fond of them for.
My question, however, is this.....if google decides that displaying PR is of more harm than good and removes it, will we all be shocked and appalled, or is there some sort of "not quite as simple" workaround to find out the popularity of a site?
i.e. number of backlinks etc.
Also, how would you manage to stay out of "bad neighborhoods/ directories"?
NOT for SEOs/SEMs or whatever.
Yes its an issue, but a minor one compared to how the biggest search engine in the world keeps getting bigger.
Personally I wouldnt be bothered if they removed it or not, as there is always a way to find out whatever information you actually NEED.
I suggest we STOP telling Google how to run their "BUSINESS", you will notice I said business and not CHARITY, as some people assume that Google were sent from above to help us make money.
Good point. How else can you avoid linking to bad neighborhoods? Without the toolbar, all links should be avoided. I just recently linked to a gray toolbar site that was that way because it was new. However, without the toolbar I would fear to link to any site that was around a while.
Instead of thinking about what is wrong with having PR available, try figuring out what advantage it gives to google and the end users.
PageRank is all about building a web of trust. When you combine PageRank with backlinks you can learn a lot about who vouches for a site.