Google Toolbar: The SmartTags of the New Millenium?


Michael Gartenburg has a blog posting entitled Is Google doing what Microsoft couldn’t with their new search bar?  where he writes

As Yogi would say, “it’s deja vous, all over again”. When Google introduced the newest version if their toolbar, it seems they added a feature that sounds very similar to what Microsoft wanted to do with SmartTags. Apparently the new software will create links in web text that will send you back to Google sites or sites of their choosing. If I recall correctly, there was a huge outcry over the SmartTag feature. Even petitions. How come there is no outcry here? Is it because Google does no evil?

Like I said yesterday, who needs a new browser to do stuff like this when you can co-opt IE with a toolbar?

This is one of the key differences between Google and Microsoft; perception. I am glad to see Google imitating one of Microsoft’s innovations from a few years ago. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As can be expected Dave Winer is already on the offensive.

Personally, I can’t wait to see how much cognitive dissonance this causes the Slashdot crowd.


Comments (7)

  1. theCoach says:

    I do not have the beta, but was suprised when viewing my Http traffic in Fiddler how much the toolbar is sending information back in encoded values. I have no idea what is actually being sent, but MS would be crucifyied for this stuff.

    For example, if I navigate to MSN, the google toolbar sends a request to toolbarqueries.google.com – with some cookies, presumably indicating my preferences, but it is hard to know.

  2. Phil Scott says:

    I’ve talked to quite a few people that refuse to install the google toolbar because of the pagerank stuff it sends back and forth about your browsing habits (Which you can opt out of, btw).

    But Google gets the benefit of the doubt because of their track record of "do no evil." As for the reason Microsoft doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt, well, let’s just say "do no evil to our shareholders" makes some people a little more iffy about stuff Microsoft puts out there.

  3. Eric Newton says:

    Google doesnt get a pass, the users have to decide to install the feature, instead of the feature coming PRE-installed.

    The encoded values have to be pagerank related. There’s no other reason, and I’m sure somebody outside of Google knows exactly whats being transmitted, and that its not much of a concern.

    Back to the original discussion, Microsoft has to be careful of perception… they have been perceived so far as a company that pre-installs everything including the kitchen sink, and that has HURT Microsoft in customers’ eyes. Why? All the security problems!

    Thankfully most of the security issues have been tackled (Good Job MS). Now they just have to get back into the perception of being a Software company that supplies software that you might WANT, and not neccesarily have to PUT UP WITH because of preinstallation. Its a very subtle difference.

    When you install AOL instant messenger, does AOL-IM also preinstall AOL Service? no. Yahoo toolbar ASKS you if you would also like to install Yahoo IM. The coupling between both scenarios is loose, so that the consumers can CHOOSE what they want on their systems.

    Right now, I cannot remove MSN Messenger. I cannot remove Outlook Express. Outlook Express depends on MSN Messenger, and TO MY IRRIRATION, ALWAYS starts MSN Messenger. THATS my basic point: I didnt get to choose, it was forced on me. And now I have to navigate through TaskMan to kill "msmsgs.exe" because it always says "SOme application is using Messenger services…" What application? OE is closed!

  4. Daren Dahl says:

    Google’s AutoLink is similar to Microsoft’s SmartTags but, as said before, Google gets the benefits of the doubt because of their track record.

    It is also worth noting that the AutoLink feature does not change the page you are viewing in anyway unless you click the AutoLink button on the toolbar. It is a per-page opt-in feature — unlike what Microsoft was proposing with SmartTags.

  5. Ok,

    So if Microsoft tries to make money by monopolizing search traffic it’s evil. If Google does the same thing it’s ok?

    I think the point is really being missed here by all. What right does anyone have to CHANGE the content of my website.

    Now I understand they are not really changing my info but they are changing how its presented. THIS IS MY MONEY, MY MARKETING, and MY BUSINESS. The customers I bring to my website who just happen to use the google toolbar have to have my information presented in their format.

    I own a small search and this nothing more than an effort to overcome Blog/Search partnerships that don’t include the big boys.

    Not that we don’t want to include them they exclude themselves.

    Sorry I like Google search but I don’t like strong arm business tactics from any company to keep their stock holders happy. Isn’t that what Google was suppose to be fighting?

  6. Pies says:

    Oh come on, you really think Google is imitating SmartTags?

    SmartTags were advertising links inserted randomly into other people’s websites. AutoLinks are utility links inserted precisely where they are needed most and link together the things that should be linked anyway — addresses to maps, ISBNs to books, etc. for the benefit of the user.

    SmartTags were designed so that a user might mistake them for real links (underlined). From the screenshots (I don’t use Windows at work) I see that Google made it very clear that AutoLinks are not like regular links (they’re inverted).

    SmartTags were created solely for the purporse of making Microsoft money, with no benefit to the user whatsoever. AutoLinks can be really useful.

    Your failure to see the difference is exactly what’s wrong with Microsoft.