Google Gone Bad?

The Mysterious AutoLink
By Trina L.C. Schiller

Recently there has been some talk about Google’s newest addtion to their toolbar – AutoLink. So I decided to have a look at their information on it. Google really doesn’t offer much in the way of information about it, so I went to read elsewhere.

As a result, I am pretty sure I know why Google doesn’t offer more than a paragraph’s worth of information on AutoLink. Remember SmartTags?

Microsoft SmartTags added links to your web documents without your knowledge or consent. When released, it turned the Internet upside down. Webmasters were scrambling to figure out what could be done to turn it off; block it from their sites.

Now Google has come out with their very own traffic stealer with AutoLink. AutoLink basically does the same thing SmartTags does, except that it is not built into your operating system. (SmartTags was included in the Windows XP operating system.) It is part of the Googlebar. The only real significance of this difference is that users can choose whether or not to install it.

In my opinion, what this amounts to is copyright infringement. Who gave Microsoft, or Google the right to add links, to other web sites, to my pages? I certainly did not. To my knowledge, copyrighted material is not to be altered by anyone other than the entity holding the copyright, and that includes web pages, under the laws governing intellectual property.

I wrote to Google to tell them my thoughts on the matter, and this was their reply:

Thank you for your feedback regarding the AutoLink feature of the Google Toolbar 3.0 beta. AutoLink is a user-initiated feature of the Google Toolbar. AutoLink links are generated only when a Toolbar user clicks on the AutoLink button on his or her Toolbar. Links aren’t automatically generated on a page, and a Toolbar user must click on the generated links in order to go to a linked page. AutoLink does not modify links that already exist on a page. Finally, Toolbar users choose whether they want to enable or disable this feature and when to use it.

Because Toolbar users choose whether they want to enable or disable features and when to use them, we do not provide a way for webmasters to disable features such as AutoLink and the Popup Blocker on their visitors’ Toolbars.

We appreciate your taking the time to share your feedback about the AutoLink feature, and we’ll keep it in mind as we work to improve our service.

The Google Team

What bothers me about this is that it is ‘user initiated.’ That means that as a webmaster, I have no control over what that ‘user’ does while at my site. I have no choice as to whether or not the ‘user’ is going to run off to one of Google’s advertisers, rather than remaining on my page. They don’t alter existing links, but they do add links that I didn’t put there. Again, can you say copyright infringement?

Google certainly doesn’t see it that way. In fact, when I brought it up in my letter to them, they totally ignored it in their response.

Webmasters work hard to get traffic to their pages, so who gave Google the right to steal that hard work? Personally, I expected better of Google.

On a side note, you may want to review Google’s Privacy Policy, if you’re concerned about spyware. See below:

“Your Privacy
Google respects and protects our users’ privacy. Periodically, the Google Toolbar’s auto-update feature will contact our servers to see if you’re running the most current version. In addition, Google may collect information about web pages that you view when you use advanced features such as PageRank, SpellCheck, AutoLink, and WordTranslator. However, these advanced features can be easily disabled or re-enabled at any time by selecting “Privacy Information” under “Help” in the Toolbar’s “Google” menu. To learn more, please read the Toolbar privacy policy.”

Copyright © 2005
The Trii-Zine Ezine

About the author:

Trina L.C. Schiller is a professional network marketer, the publisher of the Internet marketing ezine, “Trii-Zine” and owner of TLC Promotions, as well as a founding publisher at, and President of, the Internet’s first syndicated advertising agency.
She has also authored the following ebooks:

“Your Beginner’s Guide To Syndication”

RSS, Blogs and Syndication… The Facts vs The guruese”

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