« Wasted Youth | Main | Segway Introduces New Models »

New Google Toolbar Raises Concerns

It's the Microsoft SmartTag controversy all over again - only this time it's the netsavy Google.

The new beta version of Google's toolbar allows it to edit any page on the web without the author's knowledge. Zeldman.com has more on why this may be an issue for site owners.


TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New Google Toolbar Raises Concerns:

» Myopic Zeal linked with New Google Toolbar's Editing Capabilities

» ZuDfunck linked with Google oh Google, Say it aint so

» JackLewis.net linked with More Google shenanigans

» JRB Technology linked with Goole Autolink Controversy

Comments (25)

what a joke, you need accce... (Below threshold)
Independent mind:

what a joke, you need accces to the target server to upload and thus change anything. What the tool does is let you edit YOUR version. It can not replace the origional

A couple of years ago, anot... (Below threshold)

A couple of years ago, another company offered a technology that allowed its users to make post-it notes on Web sites that it stored on its servers, and whenever a user hit a Web site, this application would reach out to its servers to see what other users had commented on the Web site.

Remember that company? No? I guess that says something about the demand for this sort of thing.

Disliked the concept when M... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

Disliked the concept when Microsoft tested, dislike it just as much now. Granted, the client installs and enables this "feature" so it gives power to the people in a way. However, in time, commercial pressures from investors will cause this tool to insert targeted ads and who knows what else into the rendered page. Webmasters won't be happy when "Sponsored by Google ads or links" start popping up in their nicely designed and parsed XHTML.

Will the new code botch the standards-compliant source or screw up the layout? Will it insert an ad that competes with the webmaster's presentation or product? Will tracking bugs occur in violation of the webmaster's privacy statement?

I see lots of problems and potential abuses with this and would start using other search engines more often if Google employs such tactics. Are you listening Yahoo, AltaVista, DMOZ, etc.?

How is this any different f... (Below threshold)
ikkonoishi:

How is this any different from having a reader write notes in the margin of a book? Are highlighter makers in the wrong for allowing people to alter books? You might argue that in this case it is the highlighter makers that are altering the books, but that is stupid. The readers are hiring someone to alter the books for them. This only concerns the websurfer and google. It doesn't involve the site owner at all.

Independent mind said, <... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

Independent mind said,

"It can not replace the origional"

True, that it does not alter the original file on the web server, but it does alter content server to your browser, in ways that the original site designer may not have intended.

ikkonoishi askes,

"How is this any different from having a reader write notes in the margin of a book?"

The book has been paid for.

As a designer, who works for commercial clients, this is a concern. If my design or content can be changed on the fly by an outside interloper, what control do I or my clients have? This starts to break into the realm of GAIN and other adware/spyware packages.

I pay for web server space, bandwidth and my clients pay for the design and provide me with the content to post. If another entity can change the presentation on the fly, or link to their content through my site, without compensating me or the original content owner, they are starting down a shaky path.

How do I get compensation for them using my site to serve their content? They are linking to their service, without my knowledge or approval and possibly charging a third party for this service. They derive income from this service, yet I am providing the bandwidth and the site for them to post it on, since it is served over my content or linked to "key words" on my site.

I wonder how Google, or Microsoft for that matter, would feel if I wrote a nice little bit of code to place my own content on their web site? It wouldn't reside on their servers, just would paste all kinds of things over their content or key words.

Here is a hypothetical, and I know it can't be done now, but give it time. Say I surf to Google as Joe user. I type a word into the search bar and click the search button, but instead of the Google results screen appearing, you are redirected to a Yahoo search results screen, with their ads and content. How do you think Google would react?

Stop being paranoid and hys... (Below threshold)
Fred:

Stop being paranoid and hysterical. This feature of the Google toolbar doesn't do anything except automate Search by Number searches. To enable it, you have to download the toolbar and manually click the Autolink button while viewing a page. It doesn't do anything automatically. There are, however, services and software that change pages dynamically, like the Google Preview extension for Firefox, which alters Google's own search results pages. Sure, Google could do Something Bad with its toolbar, and if they do, they deserve criticism. Just not for this.

Fred says<i... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

Fred says

"Stop being paranoid and hysterical."

Sorry Fred, is has nothing to do with paranoia and hysteria. It does have to do with other peoples content being manipulated in a way that they did not intend or approve of.

I don't care that the user installs it and has to click a button to implement it. If it changes the content, in any way, of a web page I have designed or own the content of, without my expressed approval, it is theft.

Google has stock holders now and has to answer to those stock holders. If the company, for what ever reason, finds it's revenue stream diminishing, what makes you think they may not implement some manner of content thievery to recoup that loss of income?

Call it what you want Fred, but do you let your employer pay someone else for your work?

There is a great possibility of abuse and why allow it if there is the possibility?

This takes the cake. I tho... (Below threshold)
James:

This takes the cake. I thought the stupidest thing I ever heard was when ReplayTV came along and removed the "commercial skip" button because somehow skipping commercials is tantamount to "stealing TV". Now the Luddite fringe wants to say I can't do what I want with my own web page renderer? Words fail me. The only response I can come up with is "fuck you", and that sounds inadequate and hollow. My computer. My operating system. My fucking web browser. The web page YOU choose to give me when I ask for it (nobody is making you) is just data, ones and zeroes that I can do with as I see fit. This is not "other people's content", it stops being theirs as soon as they transmit it to me. As long as I'm not giving the altered version to anybody else, I can do whatever-the-fuck I want with it, end of story.

I use Firefox, and perhaps the most-used extension is AdBlocker. I set up some filters, and every page that I view is changed according to the rules I've created. In most cases, this means removing any and all advertising. It saves my bandwidth, and makes pages easier to follow. Oh, I'm sorry, it "robs" you of advertising revenue? Nobody made you serve the page to me. When the bits reach my computer, under "fair use" provisions, I can do whatever the hell I want with them. I wouldn't have followed your ads anyway (as a personal rule), but at least have the decency to transmit ~300 bytes of text ads (which the filter generally doesn't catch) instead of ~4-5kb of annoying graphics or (God for-fucking-bid) Flash.

I haven't actually used the technology in question, but it sounds like this Google thing is just going to be a variation on the AdBlocker. Instead of removing text based on rules, it will add links. Right now, I can select any text in a web page, right-click, and select "search the web for " to bring up a Google search for that phrase. It could be reconfigured to any search engine, but I happen to like Google. Internet Explorer is much harder to extend in such a manner, so I for one am glad to hear that those stuck with the "mainstream" browser for one reason or another are going to have better functionality.

Whew. Sorry for the rant, I just get really worked up when somebody tells me what I can and can't do with *my* data. You may have created it, but you lost the ability to control it as soon as you served it up.

"If it changes the content,... (Below threshold)

"If it changes the content, in any way, of a web page I have designed or own the content of, without my expressed approval, it is theft."

Does that include using a text-only browser like Lynx or telling another browser not to display graphics?

It may be changing the user experience, but it is not theft.

A couple of years ago, a... (Below threshold)
mantis:

A couple of years ago, another company offered a technology that allowed its users to make post-it notes on Web sites that it stored on its servers...Remember that company? No? I guess that says something about the demand for this sort of thing.

Nope, never heard of that company, but I have heard of Google, and something tells me they'll be around awhile. Plus this is a different service.

If it changes the content, in any way, of a web page I have designed or own the content of, without my expressed approval, it is theft.

It doesn't change content. The content remains exaclty as it was before. It just add links for specific strings of text or numbers. All it does is add links. It provides a shortcut so you can look up an address or isbn number without cutting and pasting into a maps site or amazon. I can't believe all these people who supposedly have webpages and are whining about their content being changed. It won't. It does present problems because whatever sites google chooses to link these autolinks to (if they don't allow the user, or website owner to choose) will get an unfair advantage due to Google's dominance. Plus the problem of click-thru revenue the website owners will never see. I don't see a big problem there though because if you couldn't use the autolink, you could just cut and paste, and either way the website owner gets nothing.

Besides if people see a big problem with this, write to Google. This is a beta test folks, they want user input.

Heh heh... Some time ago, I... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

Heh heh... Some time ago, I wrote to Macrovision about Flash. Next time you visit a site using it, right-click and check settings: last time I looked, among the settings was one to allow the app to take over your webcam and mcrophone - set as "yes" by default!

I have been assured the feature does not actually exist, but...

James, you poor ignorant sl... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

James, you poor ignorant slut!

You are wrong on so much of your brainless rant, but lets run a couple by ya'.

It's not your data, never will be unless you create it. I, or whom ever creates, it owns it. Check that with a copyright lawyer you simp.

Yes, you as a user can do anything you like with it, for all I care, sit on it and spin buddy. But when a commercial, for profit, company changes the content of a site that is owned and operated by someone else, that goes beyond fair use. Check your facts Pin-Head.

You might want to check the definition of Luddite while your at it. Here I'll help you . . .

Luddite - One who opposes technical or technological change.

Don't have any problem with a technological advancement, don't steal from me though. Understand the concept?

I'll tell you what, go out and design a house. I take your drawings and add a light fixture to the back porch. Now it's my design, right?

Oh and BTW, you don't own the "web page renderer" unless you wrote the software. You better look at the license again Skippy, you don't own any part of it, that or the OS.

I can hardly wait for your next rant . . . . as my son would say, "Bring it!"

But when a commercial, f... (Below threshold)
mantis:

But when a commercial, for profit, company changes the content of a site that is owned and operated by someone else, that goes beyond fair use.

Once again, content is not changed. Code is not altered in any way. Links are created in the browser for certain text. Content is not changed

The only response I can ... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

The only response I can come up with is "fuck you", and that sounds inadequate and hollow. My computer. My operating system. My fucking web browser. The web page YOU choose to give me when I ask for it (nobody is making you) is just data, ones and zeroes that I can do with as I see fit. This is not "other people's content", it stops being theirs as soon as they transmit it to me. As long as I'm not giving the altered version to anybody else, I can do whatever-the-fuck I want with it, end of story.

No, the content is still the author's though you are allowed some "fair use" as you mentioned later. The instant it is created, the content is copyrighted by the author. That doesn't translate to economic penalty if "fair use" is abused necessarily, but the material is copyrighted nonetheless even if not expressed by legal disclaimer (international law imposes some limitations to this default). Material on a web page is an equivalently created work just like a book, magazine, periodical, or other literary work. The difference is that we are unaccustomed to treating online data with equal reverance. I consider it a misconception of the digital age. That "unfair use" continues unabated does not diminish the violation though attempts at legal control of such misuse by the author are typically and prohibitively expensive.

Of course you may run filters to add and subtract code to your heart's delight and install whatever tool to accomplish that end ad nauseum. The current beta incarnation seems inocuous enough now. The question is what dubious twist may result from Google's amended software and policy at some future point that you might not like or know about? From the webmaster's POV, the modified code could screw up page rendering among other problems I mentioned previously. From a user/client POV, Google might start placing tracking *.gifs, javascript, or some yet to be created technology that compromises your privacy or the privacy assumed present on a targeted website. You sound like someone that might be concerned with such issues.

I still think this is a bad idea and one that could backfire on Google. Who knows, webmasters and developers may decide that they do not want their pages to be innocently modified by Google anymore and start excluding the Google search engine from spidering their site. Or they might start placing warning signs on web pages stating that Google is modifying the page rendered and shift blame for poorly rendered pages to Google. Who knows what genie gets released from the bottle. The fact is that pressures for improved bottom line can incite curious behavior from once honorable companies. Ultimately the market will decide due to competing pressures from both creators of content and users of content. I just think Google should learn from the master (aka Microsoft) and rethink their position.

RE: mantis's post (March 3,... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: mantis's post (March 3, 2005 12:30 AM)
Once again, content is not changed. Code is not altered in any way. Links are created in the browser for certain text. Content is not changed

Anything inserted into the XHTML stream and rendered in the browser window is changing content - that would include headers and body. If the link is created in a "child" window or some other component of the client browser, then that would not be changing content. If GoogleBar inserted a period anywhere in my XHTML, it has modified my content, minimally so but change nonetheless. Since I don't use the tool, I'm unfamiliar with the finer points of its implementation, but it sounds like a regular expression proxy parser that tracks keywords and converts them from simple text to a hyperlink for some external (and unauthorized by content author) URI source. If that is its design, it is changing content, albeit on the fly, using client CPU power and not some webhosts hardware.

Replace my book analogy wit... (Below threshold)
Ikkonoishi:

Replace my book analogy with "leaflet" since I don't pay for those. Lets just say that I'm adding that particular javascript segment to my proxomitron filter list and leave it at that.

AD,I'm not exactly... (Below threshold)
mantis:

AD,

I'm not exactly sure how the autolink works yet either, but if you're going to be that nitpicky about what content is, then let me ask you this: Do you consider it wrong for me to set my browser to turn off any flash applications when I load your site? How about any images? How about if I translate it into german? How about bookmarklets? What about content being altered for the disabled? How about when browsers automatically compensate for crappy code to make it viewable? There are hundreds of ways that I can alter your website as seen on my computer. I can write a bookmarklet right now to do exactly what autolink does. This feature is not something that is on without the user's knowing about it. You must activate the autolink on every individual page in order to use it. The user knows he/she is "altering the content" the same way he/she knows it when translating a page into a different language. If you want to complain about users being able to alter how they view your pages, you need to go quite a bit deeper than autolink.

As far as your prophecies of doom:

However, in time, commercial pressures from investors will cause this tool to insert targeted ads and who knows what else into the rendered page. Webmasters won't be happy when "Sponsored by Google ads or links" start popping up in their nicely designed and parsed XHTML.

they are pure fallacy.
Based on their record, there is no reason to expect any such thing from Google.

RE: mantis's post (March 3,... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: mantis's post (March 3, 2005 02:37 AM)

The tools you mention are great and I would consider them quite useful. Most of them are editing by subtraction which is better than editing by addition, but I get your point about post-webmaster modification. I'm not familiar with browser client "crappy code" compensators - really? Cool. Maybe I can start browsing all those MS Propietary code sites now.

As long as the users know that they are introducing the effect every time, then I don't have a problem since the visitor and potential customer finds that particular need vital and is more aware of the concomitant pitfalls.

About the slippery slope, I didn't imply it to be inevitable, just likely. Google's record is quite brief; of note is that it only turned public within the last 2 years. (I believe that to be correct but I'm too lazy to look it up. Maybe I could Google it if I only had that GoogleBar installed...) As such it is currently a sunrise company with lots of cash flowing in. One day that trend will reverse and the founders will have cashed out. Can you be certain that the mission won't change? When the money starts flowing out, can you know that policies won't be modified to staunch the bleeding, that questionable compromises won't be made to boost expedient cash flow? If you can answer these questions, then I'd like to hire you as my broker.

Honestly, I like to empower the user. My beef is with companies that would be honing in on my creative work in a somewhat surreptitious method. It just seems like a principle is being violated since I regard this as a sort of commercial graffiti invading my virtual content. Think of a poem for a moment. The author wants it to stand as is and nothing more. Others may want to change a stanza, line, word, comma, or inflection to suit their style, but the author does not want the modification for many reasons. Should one respect the right of the author or not? This isn't a particularly good example and I don't mean for it to appear melodramatic, but I just don't have a positive view of Google's new tool and expect potential abuse.

I could care less what the ... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

I could care less what the user does with the content. Turn off javascript, turn off the graphics, disable Flash, do what ever you like on your computer using the installed browser.

But, when an outside organization runs a code across content sent from my server, and then links "key words" to one of their advertisers, they are using my content as a means of advertising, without paying for it.

Again, I don't care if the user turns it on or off. If some other commercial entity is placing, replacing, linking, or whatever with my content, without permission or compensation, that is simply thievery.

AD's "prophecies of doom" are not fallacy, since he speculated that it was a possibility. A speculation that has far more evidence to support it's occurence then your rebuttal "Based on their record, there is no reason to expect any such thing from Google." Google now has owners it has to satisfy. If they are not happy with how their stock is performing, what makes you think they would not do whatever they could to restore their stock price?

If you are really that naive, please provide an example of a publically owned company that stood by it's principals and let itself go down based on those principals. Please! Because I would love to have this type of faith in Google, but based on past practices of the vast majority of major corporations, that is blind trust.

please provide an exampl... (Below threshold)
mantis:

please provide an example of a publically owned company that stood by it's principals and let itself go down based on those principals.

Point is that autolink or lack of autolink will not bring google down. And I don't have faith in them, I just don't see any reason at this point to be so suspicious.

If some other commercial entity is placing, replacing, linking, or whatever with my content, without permission or compensation, that is simply thievery.

It already happens, every day.

mantis says,"It a... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

mantis says,"It already happens, every day."

Therefore it is OK to do it. Like that train of thought, if I say it is OK, it is!

Simple solution, I just install the script mentioned in a linked post.

Did I say it was ok? No, I... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Did I say it was ok? No, I did not. My point is that by having your website come up on google, one can translate it into another language, therefore a commercial entity was already altering your content without your permission long before autolink.

And yes, of course you can opt out with a script.

<a href="http://www.alistap... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

Much Ado About Smart Tags
by Chris Kaminski

Get some coffee (or tea) and read a terrific overview circa 2001 of "smart-tag" implementation. Substitute Google for Microsoft and you have "auto-link" pegged.

It has already been decided... (Below threshold)
Stew Pid:

It has already been decided that on-the-fly alteration of the presentation of content by a program used by the customer does NOT violate copywrite. Nintendo sued about this years ago, trying to get rid of GameGenie, and lost.

For those who don't like it, I have a solution: Don't use it. I probably won't myself, because it simply doesn't sound all that useful, but I see no reason to stop other people. Furthermore, if Google does go off the deep end and start doing all the things that DavidB says they will, most users will simply abandon it. People are smart that way, they don't need you holding their hand telling them what apps are OK to use.

OK, first off, an apology t... (Below threshold)
James:

OK, first off, an apology to everybody for a few overzealous remarks in my spittle-flecked rant above. I was on a bit of a tear. I recognize that neither your content nor my web renderer are "mine", but I have a pretty liberal license to use them for personal enjoyment. Until the MPAA/RIAA/ get their hands on it in the near future, US copyright law lets me do pretty much whatever I want to the content as long as I don't turn around and make the changed stuff available, especially without attribution to you, the original author, or if I do it for profit.

From the legal angle, Stew (above) pretty much nails it. From a moral/ethical angle, I look at it this way:

1) I can read your content.
2) I can copy/paste what I read into Google (or whatever) and get their commericals displayed to me, if I so choose
3) I can script Firefox to do whatever I want, so I could (given time and a bit more expertise) write a plugin that determines words that are "interesting" and runs a Google "I Feel Lucky" search, then drops the result into the page at render-time
4) Since I'm lazy, I can get Google to do (3) for me.


Where did I go morally/ethically wrong?

As far as privacy issues go, Google has very clear, easy-to-read privacy policies for every product of theirs I've ever used. They are one of the VERY few software companies honest enough to put in big, bold letters any time that they collect information from you, and if there's modes of operation (like the Google toolbar for IE) where one collects and one doesn't, the default is not to collect. That's why I go to bat for them when people try to badmouth -- more companies should be this honest, and I hate to see anybody suggest they might do otherwise.




Advertisements









rightads.gif

beltwaybloggers.gif

insiderslogo.jpg

mba_blue.gif

Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile

Contact

Send e-mail tips to us:

tips@wizbangblog.com

Fresh Links

Credits

Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login



Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy