mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Wednesday, 19 January 2005

On How Google Fixed Comment Spam

Filed under: Standards Web

More than a year after my modest suggestion, Google takes a step to fix comment spam. Hopefully, other people who re-publish Web content (like mailing list archives) will start doing this as well.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this was how it was done. Google has added an HTML rel attribute value unilaterally (OK, they did co-ordinate with a few blog product vendors).

Is this a good or a bad thing? The “right” way to add a rel value in HTML is with a profile;

Authors may wish to define additional link types not described in this specification. If they do so, they should use a profile to cite the conventions used to define the link types. Please see the profile attribute of the HEAD element for more details.

In an ideal world, Google would have worked with the W3C, looping in the rest of the community, and consulted on the name of the value, put together a profile, and published a standard.

In the real world, they used their tremendous market power to establish a mini-de facto standard, and it works; the profile (and maybe even a consensus standard) will undoubtedly follow, when enough people have a need to have it done right (realising that those people probably won’t work for Google).

In fact, going down that path may have been the worst thing they could have done; it would have taken even longer (!) and they would have scared a lot of users — who don’t know the first thing about HTML profiles — away.

That’s not the way to say that it’s always the best way; all we need to do is to look back to BLINK and all of the other pain surrounding HTML not too long ago. It’s just important to realise the differences between innovation, market adoption and standardisation. They’re all related, but there is no “right” or pre-determined path between them.


1 Comment

Edward O'Connor said:

A profile for rel="nofollow": http://developers.technorati.com/wiki/RelNoFollow

Monday, March 21 2005 at 3:31 AM

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