| My Two Cents on AutoLinks |
Many years ago (in 1999), the CEO of EBSCO was pushing very hard for implementing Reference Linking -- basically if you are reading a research paper, you just click on the reference being cited, and then
go to that reference, be it a book or another research paper. "Reference Linking would indeed be the holy-grail of content management", I had thought. His vision was as brilliant as it was complicated to engineer.
Then in 2001 Microsoft released SmartTags -- a diluted reference linking, if I may call it so. In my mind it was an obvious abuse of its monopoly and unjust
manipulation of somebody's content. Microsoft withdrew this technology after a furor
was raised. The issue has now again surfaced due to Google's AutoLink feature.
The underlying question is this -- whether EBSCO does it or Google. Is
inserting links modification of content?
Legally, I believe it constitutes modification of content (I hope so, anyway).
Morally, I believe that it is OK, and in some instances indeed welcome to
provide these AutoLinks (as in the case of Reference Linking)
In some cases, the end-user might be willing to pay for the AutoLinks (as in
case of EBSCO), and in that situation who is violating whom?
Lessons from Manual Linking
For a moment, consider the problem/anguish if linking on the web. Most people will
generalize and say "Linking is Good", whereas there are indeed some
types of linking that are bad and unwelcome.
Examples of Unwelcome Links
- Inline image linking (a.k.a. Bandwidth
Stealing) -- This is definitely not OK by me.
- "Google Bombs" --links created with inappropriate text as
in PriceLine is a Fraud or Miserable
- Links to non-public websites encoding passwords and tokens and hence
compromising the security of website.
- HTML Framing -- Some sites like Sulekha
link to external sites, but after including a frame header with an
advertisement. I feel this is not OK. I allow HTML framing of our
contents only if the frame header does not contain an advertisement.
Going to back to my thoughts on AutoLinks, I'd use the similar criteria,
whether or not it results in damage to the content creator. It
is definitely not OK for a browser vendor or a toolbar vendor to insert
hyperlinks -- because the content creator might have deliberately left out links
to improve design, to reduce link fatigue (or to make a statement).
It might be OK for vendors to provide external tools (like a popup
window or HTML frame) to show these links when they specifically charge a fee for such a service (not sure how it will work).
If we do not agree that AutoLinking is abuse of someone else's content,
consider its ramifications. The web hosting companies will want to modify the
contents (remember the Geocities banner ?), so will the Internet traffic boosters like Akamai.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, March 30, 2005|
Last Modified: 4/4/2005 7:31:55 PM