Google Toolbar AutoLink Feature Raises Eyebrows
Recently, Google updated their search toolbar, and in doing so, added a new feature that has generated a range of reactions.
The addition drawing so much attention is Google’s AutoLink feature. In Google’s words, AutoLink “adds links to the page you’re viewing if it recognizes certain types of information on the page. For example, AutoLink will link a U.S. street address to a map of that address or the tracking number of a package to a status page for your package. AutoLink also recognizes car VIN numbers and book ISBN numbers.”
Essentially, AutoLink creates outgoing links that were not put there by the developer or webmaster.
Because Google controls the newly placed link and the content it goes to, many critics think it gives the search engine to much control. Other dissenting voices feel AutoLink creates a conflict of interest because it could be diverting traffic from a site that already features paid advertising.
Google’s response to critics, according to the BBC, “The user can choose never to click on the AutoLink button, and web pages she views will never be modified. In addition, the user can choose to disable the AutoLink feature entirely at any time.”
Oddly enough, the same person who developed Microsoft’s SmartTag program also developed Google’s AutoLink feature.