Count me on the Google Autolinks is scary side


If you've not been following it, Google recently released a new beta toolbar that has a new feature called Autolink. Currently it's mostly harmless but it's also very scary in its potential. If you click it it will scan the page you are reading and attempt to make any ISBN number, US Street Address, package tracking number or VIN number link to a book, map, tracking info or car info. A minor change and that feature could be used to make any word on the page link to something. Reading an article about Iraq? Click the Autolink button and every word on the page would link to other pages about Iraq, Oil, Saddam, etc..

That sounds kind of neat at first but the problem is it concentrates the ability to edit a page for millions of people in just one company. That's scary.

Right now for example if you search for Bush you'll get lots of sites pro and con. Pro sites will have pro links, con sites will have con links. When version 1.1 of Autolinks appears that does more than the 4 types of data it does now then Google will have a chance to make all those links point one way or the other, pro or con. That power will be concentrated in one company. That is the scary part. You think it's scary that people get most of their news from only 4 or 5 TV news sources? Just wait till the day when all online news sources pass through the editing hand of google and google alone.

It gets worse. Assume Google doesn't actually directly control the content but uses pagerank to decide where links to a certain topic go. Then, who ever figures out how to hack pagerank (which many people have already done) will have a HUGE influence in shaping public opinion.

Face it, techinically it's great idea. Instead of manually searching for stuff with my personal phrase of preference (bush president, bush oil, bush iraq) each person deciding for themselves how to search and therefore coming up with different links, the convienence of Autolink 1.1 will be "just click that button and I'll get links selected by google as the best links for more info" and everyone else will get the exact same links.

That's NOT good if you want diverse opinions.

Japanese get the least sleep