Walt Mossberg Comes Out Against Google Autolink

    March 10, 2005

Walt Mossberg weighs in on Google Autolink in tomorrow’s paper (WSJ.com subscription required). Basically his stance is consistent …

… with what he wrote in 2001 on Smart Tags. The big news, however, is that Google sounds like it might be listening, yet they are leaving their options open. The article will find its way onto Walt’s free site tomorrow. Here are excerpts…

The Google feature is more benign than Microsoft’s for several reasons. Still, the way it is being implemented is a bad idea. If it takes hold, it would start the Web down a slippery slope where no owner of a Web site could ever be sure that readers had a chance to view its pages in the way they were composed.

~~ Snip ~~

If the principle behind AutoLink were to take hold, there would be nothing to stop Microsoft from adding a feature to Internet Explorer that would replace the ads on a Google search-results page with ads sold by Microsoft’s MSN service.

I’ve had long conversations about this with senior Google officials, and they say they are actively considering changing the way the AutoLink feature works so it might not actually alter the Web pages themselves. They note that the feature is a work in progress. But the Google officials also insist their first principle is user convenience.

~~ Snip ~~

I take a back seat to nobody in favoring user convenience, but, as with most things in life, every principle must be balanced against others. In this case, that balancing principle is the right of Web publishers to control the content and appearance of their own sites. Users wouldn’t benefit if the Web became a sea of uncertainty, where anybody could alter every Web page.

This is all consistent with what I have been saying since the feature debuted.

Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.