March 15, 2005

Firefox counter to Google Autolink

by brian_turner

Google, which has so far staunchly defended its implementation of its Autolink toolbar feature, faces a major challenge as a new Firefox extension has been released which adds similar links to Google’s own pages.

The news was widely reported at Threadwatch in Google gets a taste of it’s own Autolink Medicine. The website has led a campaign against the autolink feature, and even released code to prevent autolink running on webpages via server side and browser scripting such as JavaScript, PHP, Perl, ASP, and ASP.net.

As covered in Google releases new toolbar, faces consumer concern, and approached in more detail by Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch in Google Toolbar’s AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out, the Google Autolink feature allows the new Google Toolbar to add links in webmaster pages to third party sites, including to Google’s commercial partners.

marissa-meyer
Google’s Product Manager, Marissa Mayer, has continued to advocate the usefulness of the feature for toolbar users.

However, concerns and objections in the webmaster world are extensive, with publishers fearing this is a doorway for Google to monetise their content without their permission.

Now webmasters are striking back, with developer Mark Pilgrim releasing an extension for Firefox which allows links to third-party sites to appear exclusively in Google’s own pages.

Simply named Butler, the new Firefox extension is claimed to be able to do the following:

  • removes ads on most Google pages
  • fixes fonts on most Google pages
  • Google web search:
  • adds links to other search sites (“Try your search on…”)
  • in news results, adds links to other news sites
  • in movie results, adds links to other movie sites
  • in weather results, adds links to other weather sites
  • in product results, adds links to other product sites
  • Google image search:
    • adds links to other image/photo/art sites
  • Google News:
    • adds links to other news sites
  • Froogle:
  • adds links to other product sites
  • Google Print:
    • Removes image copying restrictions
  • adds links to other book sites
  • Google Toolbar Firefox page:
    • adds links to other Firefox-friendly toolbars

    Additionally, Mark Pilgrim uses Google own arguments to justify the product:

    No, Butler is not spyware. It does not track the pages you visit, display ads, hijack Amazon affiliate links, log keystrokes, steal passwords, set cookies, “phone home,” or install any bundled software on your computer. It is simply a Firefox script that modifies a few Google services in ways that I find useful. If you don’t like it, you can easily uninstall it.

    Microsoft had attempted to release a similar system called Smart-Tags for Internet Explorer a few years ago, but later withdrew it in view of webmaster outrage.

    It is difficult to imagine Google continuing with the Autolink feature despite the rising publisher objections to its use. However, until the company is seen to act to webmaster concerns, the reputation of Google continues to suffer damage.

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