Robert Scoble (of Microsoft) is spot on taking Google to task for wanting to rewrite the content of the web with adding their sponsored links (isbn goes to Amazon, etc). Winer has had similar good comments. The choice Google's DiBona talks about excludes content authors from the discussion. It's a terrible, terrible idea. Google needs to back paddle out of this evil doing. Post haste.
It seems like the evil started when Google began formulating it's own pages for products, news, reviews, and books - and then started redirecting traffic from the indexed sites to their own hosted pages. If it is OK for Google to remix the content they index and redirect query traffic on their site, remixing content through the client is the next step down the slippery slope.
They started with news, books, and now movies - but the pattern has been in place for several years. First step, organize the world's information and make it universally acceptable. Second step, charge information creators and services for distribution through search (or the toolbar), while making money on advertising and merchant placements.
Here's Movies, ">what I wrote in December of 2003: "There is a huge conflict of interest at the root of this -- is Google incented to drive traffic to its own pages (where it aggregates merchants and adds advertising links) over merchant and publisher pages it indexes? Hell yes. Unlike Amazon's Search Inside the Book effort, that can credibly say the point of the service is to drive sales of books -- Google's incentive is to snag traffic and monetize it -- either by selling the buy buttons, the ads, or charging publishers for distribution."
I haven't quite made up my mind on this issue yet. On the one hand, I agree with you, it's bad to alter content because potentially unwanted affiliation might be introduced.
On the other hand, publishing on the web is totally different from publishing in a traditional medium like print. Content on the web is always subject to 'mechanical' changing before being displayed to the user, due to the very nature of the medium. It should always be up to me, the user, to decide how I want to view your content. If I should want to view an automatically generated summary of your content (because I'm viewing it using my cell phone for instance), that's up to me. And if I should choose to have Google auto-link isbn numbers in your content to Amazon -- not that I would want to -- that should be up to me.
I'll have to disagree with you David. I should be free to change your content in my browser however I like. Rip, mix & burn and all that. If google provides me with a tool to make this easy, then great. Screen readers, pop up blockers and virus scanners all change web pages, this is just the same?
However, if it were ISPs transparently doing this to all their customers, *that* would be a different story...
I have to agree with Henning and Michael. Lots of people seem to be up in arms about this who weren't up in arms about, say, Greasemonkey. But that said, I haven't played with this toolbar myself and it's possible that something AutoLink adds is somehow shunting things to Google that doesn't come right out and say so. If that's the case, that's not so cool, but nothing I've read has suggested that it's the case.
Challenge by Goynang on February 28, 21:40
Hmmm - not convinced (one way or another) but a question for you....
As you are the content author of this site must I get permission from you before I override the look of the site with my own custom local stylesheet, or if I change the font size, or if decide to browse with images turned off, or, or, or....?
I ask as a genuine question - where is the line that must not be crossed in your opinion?
Authorship on the web is totally different from any medium that went before. The basic premise on which the world wide web was build was the idear or concept that you could separate the presentation from the message. (Read "Gödel, Escher, Bach" for some good reasons why you can't do this, but that is not the point I will try to make here).
The foundation of the world wide web is that the presentation is up to the user client, and not the author of the website. This is in a way logical: the author does not know anything about the abilities of the user or her platform.
Anyone who does not like the idear that their message could be presented in a different way then they intended should really think hard about putting it on the world wide web. If you don't like this, than you don't like the web, so you should be honest with yourself and not put it on the web.
So please, leave the web as it is. Use it if you agree with it's premise, but don't try to change it into something else.
People should be able to view and alter downloaded data as they like.
Challenge by anon on March 01, 2:09
This is Google altering the data, not the end-user.
Google is using other people's pages as a publishing medium. They are responsible for the content, not the person who installed the toolbar and autolink button. It means the content isn't under the control of the author any more. Yes, *individuals* could download the page, insert new content with a script, and nobody would really mind. But it's different when someone else is doing it in a high-volume, automated fashion. There is potential for Google to abuse this without even realizing it, and the best thing is just to step away from the idea, or put the content in a new window, or something like that.
Imagine if a supermarket was selling magazines and pencils. Then one day, they start selling two versions of each magazine, one pristine, another with libelous comments scribbled in the margins with pencil. Or with copyright infringement. Or with misleadingly-edited photographs. Whatever. They don't get a pass just because the clean copy is available and the readers can "choose" to avoid it.
Actually Anon, google isn't altering the data; they're amending it when you explicitly request that they do so. And they're not using other people's pages as a publishing medium. They aren't publishing anything; they're just updating a single local copy.
Rather than the supermarket anaolgy, which doesn't really fit (because google plays no part in you getting the 'clean' version of your magazine, unless as a search referral), imagine that I request a photocopy of an article from the library. Once I get the copy of the article, I ask someone to annotate it for me. I want them (for example) to highlight every book in the article and provide some supplementary information about each one. This is the function of the toolbar.
So long as Google makes the user request to rendering change on a per Web page basis, then I don't care. Truth is, nobody is gonna click AutoLink w/ every page they surf. Who cares!
Challenge by jason on March 01, 4:47
i think it's funny people are arguing for individual rights in the case of giving a large big brother corporation access to alter content and observer and store user habits and purchases. sure it's your right to alter content, but what we're arguing against is the large corporation altering content for profit. are they giving you ability to chose what links to automate? is it abundently clear to users who click a button that their actions will be tracked?
and why are so many people arguing for such an obvious privacy invasion?
Augmenting a webpage is not the same as an invasion of privacy, those actions are clearly separate. The web is based on tools which render and augment webpages, so this is not only not a problem but the core of what the web is all about.
Augmenting a webpage has nothing to do with an invasion of privacy, even though it could be used in that way.
The conclusion is then that one should object against the collection and usage of information on the user, where the tool used to collect information does not really mater.
The same thing could be done with a long bookmarklet, and in fact is called in very much the same manner of using a bookmarklet. *When the user is clicking the button, he wants those links there.* Depriving the user of these possibilities is more depressing than those scripts that turn off right clicking.