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Google Toolbar AutoUpdate Includes AutoLink Feature On

Are Webmasters Losing Control of their Websites?



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

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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?


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..


1:21 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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

But still against the TOS of most sites, which prohibit the alteration of content.


2:36 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For everyone who claims that because it is client side it is OK to modify a web site!

Let's say you write a book and someone copies a page (digital or paper copy), changes the title then redistributes to others. Do you feel that your copyright has been violated?

Based on some arguements, it must be OK because the original book is still the same. Come on folks, copyright violations are very easy to determine. And Google is clearly violating our copyrights.


2:48 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I too would like to see how Google would respond to a competitors toolbar adding links into all its search results (and to froogle etc).

If Google suddenly found words in the description part of its sponsored results and listings linking elsewhere it would be consulting its lawyers pretty quickly - think of how much revenue even a slight drop in click throughs for it would cost it. Chances are it wouldn't have a leg to stand on after doing this! Then think of how much more lost revenue this could cost internet businesses as a whole.

This is a turning point for me - I'm no longer as fond of Google as I was before. Looking forward to seeing Yahoos answer to Adsense.


3:43 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!

who cares what it is altering when the effect is the same?


4:00 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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

Ok, using your line of thought, when IE7 comes out, microsoft adds a default 'on' feature that replaces google ads with microsoft ads. Just inserts it's ads over the top of google's ads. Microsoft would make a killing, think about that google, microsoft would wipe you guys out, doing the same underhanded thing your doing to us.


5:11 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Apologies, Spikey. Not only did I miss your post (I was 'scanning' at 3am if that could be an excuse), I hadn't seen the aforesaid controvertial item at work. I'm better informed now; I've just finished a bit of surfing with the latest 'G' toolbar installed using VPC (I'm a mac user) and see now that I overparanoiated (sic) my earlier post.

I don't see the big deal for now unless you are selling books or maps; Google will search content - not links - to see whether it can find any additional sellable information sources. It does not alter the page source code, but somehow adds some of its own.

The big problem here is that it opens the door as an example for others with more 'evil' intentions than google. As most probably does anybody with most innovations. Honestly, now that I know better, I don't know what to say. As long as Google doesn't meddle with the content intent of a website, no problem.


5:26 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It does not alter the page source code, but somehow adds some of its own.

In my book, adding content qualifies as altering what's there.

As long as Google doesn't meddle with the content intent of a website, no problem.

The content intent of my pages is to show the user my content. I don't care to have anything else added to it.

What happens when this thing gets expanded to be turned on by default and starts linking relevant words on the page? My visitors, by and large, aren't going to know that I didn't put the links there, and on my site that could be a very serious problem with potentially long-lasting negative consequences on the reputation of our business.


5:35 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

...just wanted to add my $0.02 to the topic

(1.) It's *my* site, so I own the content and control it's distribution and usage. PERIOD.

(2.) Google has no right to add any layers on top of my site for their own benefit without my express authorization.

(3.) Most users are DUMB, so if this toolbar feature is enabled by default, most users will not know I did not intentionally put an AutoLink on my page. I have people everyday asking me questions about Google AdSense banners on my pages, as if *I'm* actually the representative of the sites that appear on those ads (the banners surrounded by a big obvious box and differently-colored footer that says "Ads by Google")

(4.) I agree with an earlier post which says it stands to reason that I should then be able to scrape Google content and use it to my benefit, since according to them, apparently sites actually don't own their content.

(5.) Everyone else who thinks it's OK for Google to do this, is thinking in very narrow terms, in my opinion. Just because Google is big doesn't make this OK.

What if I, or some other no-names started distributing installers and toolbars that did the same thing (displayed MY ads on top of YOUR content, or linked certain keywords in your content over to my own product and site pages)? You'd be pretty steamed about that now, wouldn't you?

The fact is, someone outside my site is using MY site for THEIR profit. Doesn't matter if it's Google or Joe Blow from down the street... It's wrong.

Of course, INDIRECTLY, search engines already use my content, as links to my pages appearing on their search results pages - and surrounded by their ads and other promotional links. But that's something I can control (whether or not I want my site listed), and it's also an external form of usage to which I have agreed and can easily opt-IN or opt-OUT from.

But to change the appearance of MY pages on MY site is an invasion of my domain - a direct use of my content without my consent or any clear method of opting out (javascript is NOT the ideal solution)... and that's just wrong.

- So long story short. Google is WRONG on this one.

The default setting should have us all opted-OUT of this system, but we should be provided a META tag that allows us to specifically opt-IN to the service. And what is the incentive for opting-in? Pay on a per-click basis just like Google AdSense does.

But none of this likely matters anyway. With all the announcements in just the past week from Yahoo!, given the greater support Yahoo! provides webmasters and advertisers, an index that is now double the size of Google's, and for many other reasons - I'm guessing Google's 15-minutes are just about up anyway.


6:11 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Hear Hear on most of what you say.

The fact that google's big makes it worse, not acceptable.


10:46 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Someone mentioned them surviving the 'firestorm' that this will unleash. Let's hope they do not. I will certainly let them know my humble opinion and since I'm meeting with our lawyers this week anyway, I'm sure the topic will come up.

Can anyone say 'Class Action Suit? '


11:41 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

All Adsense and Adwords users need to ask themselves whether they're willing to do business with Google any longer. Following my disgust at Microsoft's attempted introduction of Smart Tags I now use Linux for much of my work, and having now become very comfortable with Linux, I very much expect to never buy another version of Windows in the future. To me, this is starting to look like Google are just trying a slightly different version of what Microsoft tried with Smart Tags. I truly do hope a class action suit occurs....and no matter what the outcome I'll still consider this as theft of visitors to my site and copyright infringement.


6:59 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

When this was first discussed here at WebmasterWorld 6 months ago, many relevant issues were raised then.

AutoLink Toolbar feature looks like SmartTags

An analogy:
When it's ok to change web content, when it isn't.

AutoLink getting negative press

It is astounding that $G cult never stops to find new ways of alienating and converting more and more of its former supporters into war-troops against them.


7:52 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As I return to this newest discussion about the G$'s outrageous TB feature of AutoLink, I notice that some key arguments I made 6 months ago seem to be missing in this latest discussion. So, I repeat the most germane quotes as a necesary contribution to this latest discussion.

In msg#81 at

Any G$ cultist who thinks the user has any "right" to change the content/display of a webmaster's site is forgetting 2 important legal issues:

1. Theft of copyright
2. Theft of bandwidth.

Think, folks, think!

In order for a surfer to obtain any webpage, the website server has to TRANSFER that data: bandwidth.

In addition to the cost of time of site development and of hosting the web-site's page, and the copyright value itself, it also costs a webmaster/owner the bandwidth to deliver that webpage to the user.

As such, anyone else interfering with how the content and layout of webpage is delivered -- in anyway except as according to the webmaster's specific design -- is a thief, both in copyright and bandwidth. Pure and simple.

Note: since pop-up blocking prevents the pop-up's content from even being delivered, it is obviously not comparable here.

The obvious bottom line is this. A webmaster's unnecessary TOS: "If you want to surf to my page, you see it my way, or you are a thief." A surfer has no right to anything else.

Later on that same forum-thread,
in msg#127 at
I wrote,

...Any SE that deliberately makes it impossible for an honest authority website to be found in natural SERPs, and then also allows policies which make even paying to be found increasibly difficult if not impossible, ceases to be a valid SE. They're not trying to provide SE products, they're after money and mind control (through information control). A SE bridges authority websites to users, but G$ wants to control what users get to see, and to squeeze out every dollar possible to be made, whether earned, hijacked, or stolen.

Then that same former-SE which forces you to pay to be found on their bandwidth's web-pages says they now plan to hijack and steal your bandwidth's web-pages to use those hijacked bandwidth's web-pages as a platform to make the former-SE money? Forget it...

Later on,
in msg#136 on that same page at
I responded to a claim...

The web is designed to be democratic

When someone else can interfere and modify with what you say (as with a TB when surfing on your wesbsite), there is no free speech. When there is no free speech, there is no "democratic web."

(Don't forget or neglect to remember that it is G$ alone who is "deciding" what the changes on your web-site are and to whom those AutoLinks go when the TB is used.)

This is not about the user, this is about G$ denying the very essence of freedom on the web.

It's bad enough that G$ search is no longer a valid bridge of free speech between speakers and users, as G$ now decides who the user gets to hear regardless of authority -- due to G$'s purposely now-useless natural SERPs. For true authority sites now, only the "paid speech" of those who can (barely) afford to pay to be heard can get to be found in G$ now (via AW). But now it gets even worse with this TB, as G$ seeks to even claim the "right" to change the very words of a webmaster's supposed-to-be free speech.

This TB is the very enemy of free speech and any notion of a "democratic web."

Indeed, while some may not have realized it, to even suggest that webmasters are the ones being "greedy" in this is to demonstrate that the one saying that is actually preaching communism, opposing free speech and a "democratic web."

Think, folks, think!

Later in that thread,
in msg#164 at
I answered the comparison of G$'s AutoLink to "popup blockers"

Blocking a popup prevents a separate page from even being delivered - so no bandwidth usage of the website server. And the blocker is not modifying the content on that popup page either. The issue here is not comparable at all with AutoLink.

And msg#165
There is a difference between the user refusing to see something at all (i.e., popup blocking) vs. the user allowing software to actually re-write the copyrighted content they do see (i.e., AutoLink). And in the former, no bandwidth is costing the web-site, whereas the latter steals the web-site's bandwidth.

And msg#166
Technologically, any web-site that insists on its popup being viewed can instead, with the correct coding, make the content-page-display be contingent upon the popup's successful display. The content page can test to see if the popup page is first displayed, and if not, refuse to send the content to the user. (Yes, they will likely anger the user, but if that's what the webmaster prefers, so be it. It's their site, after all.)

Those websites who are using popups are not the everyday webmasters, in most cases anyway. Indeed, most webmasters tend to reject using popups, knowing their users do not like popups. So, because those who do use popups are the ones who are so out of the ordinary, then they are the ones who can do what they feel they must in order to ensure that popups do work on their pages, if that's their requirement before allowing a user to view their content pages.

Contrast that with AutoLink, which seeks to exploit all the everyday webmasters' websites, without their permission and without their being able to stop it. And even if there does become an opt-out option for webmasters, most ordinary webmasters may likely not even know the option even exists.

(How many ordinary webmasters will ever even know about - or how to install - the offered anti-AutoLink javascript previously mentioned in this thread, for example?)

So, again, and in every single way, AutoLink is not comparable with the popup issue. Very simple.

On a separate thread,
in msg#6 at
I responded to the "user's persective" notion

Once you have the Google toolbar installed, reload this page and look for the grayed-out "AutoLink" button. Now, click here to look at my résumé. My address in the upper right corner of the page hasn't turned into a link, but the AutoLink button has changed to "Look for Map." Click the button, and voilá—AutoLink modifies the local copy of the page to turn the address into a link to Google Maps. Give a click and you can see where I live. Now, is that really so terrible?

Here we go again. That falsely "asks" for the opinion of the supposed user's standpoint, as if AutoLink theft of copyright and bandwidth of the owners do not even mater. From the view of of the ones being robbed, it does not matter what users think.

"Here's $1,000 and several shelves that G$ just robbed from your local corner mom&pop store you like to shop at. You can use this stolen money for whatever you want. Now, is that really so terrible?"


It doesn't matter how much the stolen amount supposedly benefits another. Theft is theft and is always evil.

And every user who uses the AutoLink is an accomplice to theft. It is irrelevant what any users think about AutoLink.

responding to a good thread started by grelmar, titled,
An analogy:
When it's ok to change web content, when it isn't,

I responded
in msg#2 at
I addressed the claim by G$ that they were doing this supposedly for the user.

Google Tricks
Monday, Mar. 07, 2005

In that article, G$ tried to put forth that same kind of propaganda lie that AutoLink is somehow about helping users on their own desktops.

"it is a user-elected feature," says Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer Web products. Mayer says the company plans to give users more say.

And "freedom is slavery."

As some like to say, "NOT!"

AutoLink is not "about users" at all.

Indeed, that G$ statement is the boldest lie of orwellian cult-mind control doublethink yet to be put forth by G$. AutoLink is absolutely not about giving "users more say." AutoLink is only about giving G$ more say, more control over all information. Users have no say over anything with AutoLink. Only G$ does, while openly theiving copyrighted content and bandwidth from websites. It's not about the user control, it's about G$ controlling all information.

And just like in Orwell's 1984...

He who controls the information, controls the past. And he who controls the past, controls the future.

As TRUE FREEDOM requires, users do not have a "right" to re-write any content writer's material and information on the content writer's own (content) web-sites. And more importantly, they do not have that "right" to have G choose what or how to re-write that content for the user either.

For freedom of thought into the future, AutoLink absolutely must be abolished.


8:01 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Webmasters are supposedly welcome to inform G$ how horrible we think that G$'s AutoLink theft of content and bandwidth is.

As I said in msg#150 at

I also am surprised that we have not yet seen the URL posted for giving G$ feedback about this extremely "do only evil" idea -- or, at least, I have not seen it posted.

So, here it is.


Tell G$ what you think!

Of course, since G$ has still gone ahead with this outrageous feature these 6 months later, it might be unlikely that they ever do listen to webmasters over G$'s pursuit of orwellian total control of all information anyway.


10:00 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Ok..I installed it....went over my site which has lots of books etc. Don't see one autolink. Am I doing something wrong?


10:20 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ok..I installed it....went over my site which has lots of books etc. Don't see one autolink. Am I doing something wrong?

Voxman, it only links ISBNs, do you have these next to all your books? Also, it may not recognise them as ISBNs for some reason.

What I would like to know is how many people have uninstalled the toolbar in response to this? And are webmasters a large enough proportion of regular toolbar users to make any difference?

I uninstalled. What are all you other posters doing (those who haven't already said)?


10:51 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ok..I installed it....went over my site which has lots of books etc. Don't see one autolink. Am I doing something wrong?

Did you click the AutoLink button? You have to use that once per pageload to see the autolinks.


11:17 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes I did MatthewHSE ...maybe it doesn't affect our site? They do have ISBN numbers on it.


11:27 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Dang...ok now I made it work...and NOW I AM ANGRY


2:21 am on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Okay, I finally cut the cord. I uninstalled due to the AutoLink. It doesn't affect me (yet), but I find it invasive and ultimately, I see it as theft.

Is there a toolbar that isn't affiliated with any particular engine that I can install? I just installed the Yahoo toolbar because it has (coolness) an autolink to their fantasy sports, plus the stock quote and dictionary.com features Google got rid of. I'd be happy to completely customize my own toolbar though.


3:54 am on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Instead of autolinking this way why don't they just let the webmaster with adsense accounts stick some javascript in the header and autolink keywords that adwords buyers bid on and give us half.

If they're going to screw us, we might as well share in the pie.

(I know a company does this already.)


4:43 pm on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

After reading every post in this thread...and posting myself, I have had a chance to calm down, and collect my thoughts.

I have but one question now. When can we expect the launch of the Google Browser Hijacker?

Perhaps in the near future we can look forward to the Google AdSense ad's we host auto-downloading adware to our visitors' computers so they can advertise to them even more at our expense.

Here's a question.... I guess I wasn't all out yet.

Why would Google do something like this, KNOWING full well that Microsoft still has 85-90% market share in the browser world?

If Microsoft released an IE update that gave users the option to AutoLink on Google's SERP's and direct them to Microsoft affiliates, Google would be holding their crotch for a long time.

The government needs to be brought into this. G, being a publicly traded company - should not be making decisions like this without going through the proper channels.... or taking into consideration that there is a MAJOR conflict of interest between this and their AdWords program.


8:04 pm on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If Google offered webmasters a metatag to opt-in to AutoLinks, they wouldn't be shifting a burden to block their intrusive toolbar feature onto webmasters, and that would be "doing no evil" IMHO. Probably too much to hope for...

Personally, I could tolerate an opt-out metatag I suppose, although for many, that would mean editing thousands of pages. An opt-out tag that could be delivered in server headers would minimize the editing and I'd be reasonably comfortable with that. (I'm not thrilled with ANY of this of course. We shouldn't need to have this discussion at all!)

In any case, the number of sites adopting a tag, and how quickly it is adopted, would probably give a pretty clear indication how the webmaster community as a whole feels about AutoLinks.

The SEs collaborated re: blogs and the rel="nofollow" attribute to protect their SERPs. It took cooperation from blog software writers and bloggers (webmasters) too. Hey SEs, now WE need YOUR cooperation! Give webmasters that care something they can use, and AutoLink those that don't care all you like. :)


8:19 pm on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

From another forum here at WebmasterWorld posted today, even hard-copy content publishers are getting peeved at the G$ cult's obnoxious overreach into copyright infringement.


In the similar way that the G$ cult's AutoLink thieves off the unbought bandwidth of honest websites in order to steal profits and information control for G$, G$ was slammed by book publishers by positioning G$ to profit off their books without compensation.


Publishers are also upset that Google might be able to generate more advertising revenue by offering an index of copyrighted books and so far hasn't offered to pay any royalties for its potential financial gains.


8:25 pm on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

An opt-in tag would be the only appropriate possibility. The opt-out tag would be the same thieving and arrogant mentality that rightly disturbed the book publishers about the G$ cult's overreach and "explanation" of their copyright infringement of hard-copy books.


Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.

That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

"Google's announcement does nothing to relieve the publishing industry's concerns," Patricia Schroeder, the trade group's president, said in a statement Friday. "Google's procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every principle of copyright law on its ear."

Now, web-content publishers have hard-copy publishers on their side against the ever-arrogant G$ cult.


1:45 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

"There's a huge outcry about loss of income, but:

a) How many of those people are making a sizable amount from Amazon?"

I have my own links to other than Amazon and I want *MY* users to click them. If they click an Amazon link it starts a trail of user activity *away from my site*.

"b) How many of the visitors to those sites use Google Toolbar?"

1 is too may so long as the autolink feature is on it.

"c) How mant of those will activate the feature and use it?"

Same answer

"d) What percentage of them would have purchased and earned you commission?"

Any % is better than % minus 1


1:49 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

"Its not re-writing web pages .."

Neither is a site that frames another site's content.

" .. or making links without human action."

What's the difference? It is still potentially leading visitors away from the site.


2:34 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

"This tool supports their goal of providing a better user experience, .."

So what? Surfing another site might be a better experience for the user than surfing my site. But I got them to my site and I want to keep them there.


2:40 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Marketing Guy and others not anti autolink ..

... who suggest that if we don't like the autolink feature we should block Google.

Let's say I block Google ..

Then someone with a Google toolbar found my site on YAHOO!

Does the toolbar still invite visitors to leave my site?

This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: 187

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