Once again, the battle against spam results in high collateral damage

blogging, google, technology

Google has announced that they’ve added a special “no-follow” tag option for links that is intended to curb comment spam. What is comment spam? It’s the disgusting — often pornographic — crap that lowlife spammers spew in blog comments so that Google will perceive their sites as ‘more important’. After all, Google Page Rank is partly dependent upon how many sites “link” to another site, even if that link is added by a spammer. The new no-follow tag is designed to thwart that incentive by telling the googlebot “Hey, this link wasn’t added by the Webmaster… so don’t interpret it as a popular vote for that other site.”

Other search engines, including Yahoo and MSN, have quickly decided to support this new tag. And I believe all of their intentions are good. Unfortunately, I think that this is a bad solution.

As background, let’s look at e-mail: all the major e-mail players (AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Gmail, and even software like Outlook, etc.) have added significant anti-spam components to their systems… but has this stemmed the tide of spam? Not one iota. Instead, the spammers simply were cornered into dramatically increasing the volume to make up for the filtering.

The same, I expect, will sadly happen with comment spam. Since there’s practically zero cost for comment spamming AND no penalty (albeit no gain) for spamming a ‘no-follow’-protected blog, comment spammers will simply redouble their efforts and intensify their comment spamming campaigns.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m not very fond of this no-follow thing. From a selfish perspective, I believe that I’ve contributed quite a few thoughtful comments to many blogs, and frankly, I welcome and appreciate the Google whuffie that I earn for my blog. Forgive my sense of entitlement here, but when I’m contributing to the content of the Web, why shouldn’t my own little corner of the Web gain a bit from my efforts?

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So once again, we have anti-spam techniques penalizing the vast majority of us who ethically contribute to private and public conversations.

Personally, I wish that people had just focused on handicapped-accessible captchas (or however you spell those things), MT/Blogger account signin requirements, and so on. At the very least, I hope authenticated comments still get Google whuffie.

2 comments… add one
  • Robert Scoble Jan 19, 2005

    I’m not going to use nofollow for every link. Just for those that really don’t deserve the Google juice.

    Every site I link to automatically gets a Google Page Rank of five. Why should that be? Why should every site I link to get the same Page Rank?

    I love this feature.

  • James Mar 6, 2008

    Hey Adam, I am also against nofollow,
    But SE need to take this step because not of human spammers, spamming was done by software in middle of 2006, and i had seen many website getting more than 8K links in a day.
    It’s up to all on moderator quality that the posted comment is related to not to the topic.
    And moderator should decided whether for which link he wants to place nofollow attribute.
    Still i hate this nofollow.

What do you think?