I have never been a big fan of Google’s toolbar. It can let Google know every page you visit and will update automatically, without asking. That being said I have always used it when surfing with IE in the past. Google’s new version of the toolbar, still in beta, introduces AutoLink. Google describes it as:
“The online review of a great new restaurant has the place’s address but no map. You could type the restaurant’s street, city, and ZIP code into the search box, but why bother, when clicking the Toolbar’s AutoLink button will automatically create a link to an online map (US addresses only)? AutoLink can also link package tracking numbers to delivery status, VIN numbers (US) to vehicle history, and publication ISBN numbers to Amazon.com listings.”
On the surface this may seem innocent enough but when you dig deeper it becomes more troubling. Google is essentially changing a web page by adding links where links did not exist before. From a webmaster’s standpoint these amounts to nothing more that adware or spyware. These links then take the toolbar user to another page. Microsoft tried a similar concept with SmartTags, potentially editing any page on the web without the authorâ€™s knowledge. The problem becomes in taking Google to task for such a feature. It is going setting a very bad precedent, since tools which block advertising on web sites fall into the same category, since both modify the look of a web page.
Update: A Dreamweaver extension has been released to block these autolinks. See my quick post here.