I love Google and I think they are an innovation powerhouse. However, this new Autolink feature that they have introduced in the Google Toolbar scares me. From what I understand of this feature, if you use it the webpages will get modified and keywords on the webpages will get new hyperlinks automatically (mostly to other google properties and advertiser websites.) This is one case where I think Google innovation has gone awry.
Steve Rubel has a nice piece written on this topic Google gets away with what Microsoft couldn’t.
My worry is that this is a glaring strategy to increase their ad reach in the disguise of a feature. Google would be doing so well without these kind of tricks. People are smart and most of us will figure out that there is more in it for Google than for the users. I am also sure that there are millions of google toolbar users out there that may not even have read about Autolink but are now silent participants in increasing the ad impression count for many of the google advertisers.
I have not installed a toolbar (first of all, I use Firefox only and they don’t have an official toolbar there) and now it is clear to me that I should not install one. If this was a plan by some new startup, that would not surprise me but coming from Google – come on, give us a break!!
I think what we can learn from this is that we need to respect our clients and always assume that they are SMART. Tricks will work – only for a short time!!