Walt Mossberg wrote a negative review of the beta version of the Google Toolbar in his Personal Technology column today in the Wall St. Journal: Google Toolbar Inserts Links in Others’ Sites, And That’s a Bad Idea.
Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle delivers another perspective in his article "Google Toolbar: Why the fuss?"
Mr. Mossberg asserts that some of the new features in the Google toolbar are similar in nature to the despised Microsoft "Smart Tags" which would add links to a Web site–without the site owner’s permission–to other sites…often ones with ties to Microsoft, or in this case, Google. Although the features aren’t as automatic or in-your-face as Microsoft’s version, he claims it’s a "slippery slope."
Mr. Silverman shoots back that the user has to first install the Google Toolbar, then engage it for each site being used.
Since I’m on a Mac, and the Google toolbar is only available on Window’s versions of IE, I haven’t used it yet. You might think that means I don’t have an opinion. Au contraire…
As someone who develops Web sites for a living I would be extremely concerned that someone’s altering the usabilty, design and perhaps purpose of a Web site I own or have developed. I don’t want any "post-factory" modifications to my Web sites…and I’m sure my clients don’t either.
The bottom line is that it is a slippery slope. If this catches on, another toolbar will come along that will be more aggressive, all in the pursuit of being more "user-friendly" to unseat Google. Soon my Amazon links may be rewritten as links to another bookseller, or to Amazon, but without my affiliate link in there. All in the name of progress. The road to hell, and all that.
Last night I finished Philip K. Dick’s "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Rick Deckard, the protagonist, tracks down and "retires" androids who have gone AWOL, pretending to be human.
He questions why the Rosen Corporation has to make them so human-like…after all, if they weren’t so close to being human, they wouldn’t be a threat. Of course, if the Rosen Corporation hadn’t made a more life-like model, someone else would have. And that’s the slippery slope.
I don’t want my movies colorized. I don’t want an animated paperclip saying, "It looks like you’re writing a letter." And I certainly don’t want anybody "adding functionality" to my Web site.
BTW, I hope no toolbar out there rewrote my affiliate’s link to Amazon.
I Am Not A Luddite