W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > January 2005

RE: rel="nofollow" attribute: syntax vs. semantics

From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 15:22:27 -0000
To: "'fantasai'" <fantasai.lists@inkedblade.net>
Cc: <commentspam@google.com>, <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <010601c50096$32a2ed80$6f01a8c0@W100>


I think people are giving this 'specification' more credibility than it
deserves. You quote me:

> As I keep saying, all that is on the table here is a way for Google to 
> stop crawling -- it's Google that doesn't endorse the link, not me.

and then reply:

> Here is a perfect example of the misunderstanding that 
> poorly-chosen syntax can cause. rel="nofollow" has *nothing* 
> to do with an instruction to "not follow" the link, as you 
> can see by a careful reading of the Technorati spec draft.

Thanks for the advice ... although most of my work involves "careful
reading" of drafts that are usually a little longer than a few paragraphs,
so I can assure you that I didn't misunderstand this one.

Anyway, everything I have said in my previous posts is about the actuality
of what is being proposed, rather than the terminology used in the 'spec'.
And the reality is that although this has the appearance of a specification,
a "careful reading" of the original proposal [1] shows that it is really
about letting a search engine know when to stop crawling:

  Q: How does a link change? 
  A: Any link that a user can create on your site automatically gets a
     new "nofollow" attribute. So if a blog spammer previously added a
     comment like

     Visit my <a href="http://www.example.com/">discount
     pharmaceuticals</a> site. 

     That comment would be transformed to 

     Visit my <a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">discount
     pharmaceuticals</a> site.

But [1] is not a request to authors to add the mark-up, [1] is addressed at
blog software and search engine companies:

  We hope the web software community will quickly adopt this attribute
  and we're pleased that a number of blog software makers have already
  signed on:

  Brad Fitzpatrick - LiveJournal 
  Dave Winer - Scripting News 
  Anil Dash - Six Apart 
  Steve Jenson - Blogger 
  Matt Mullenweg - WordPress 
  Stewart Butterfield - Flickr 
  Anthony Batt - Buzznet 
  David Czarnecki - blojsom 
  Rael Dornfest - Blosxom 
  Mike Torres - MSN Spaces 

  We've also discussed this issue with colleagues at our fellow search
  engines and would like to thank MSN Search and Yahoo! for supporting
  this initiative. Here are a few guidelines for anyone else who wants
  to join the cause.

The blog software producers will *automatically* add "nofollow" to links
within comments on blogs. Search engines will then know to 'not follow'
those links.

And as I have said in other posts, it's the blanket nature of it that I
object to. They have every right to try to solve their particular problem,
but that doesn't mean we aren't entitled to say that the solution is rubbish
if it is.

(And yes, in previous posts I have proposed about 4 or 5 different solutions
... it is really not a very difficult problem to solve!)



Mark Birbeck
x-port.net Ltd.

e: Mark.Birbeck@x-port.net
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Received on Saturday, 22 January 2005 15:23:21 UTC

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