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

Re: rel="nofollow" attribute

From: Asbjørn Ulsberg <asbjorn@tigerstaden.no>
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 06:03:38 +0100
To: "Jukka K. Korpela" <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Cc: www-html@w3.org
Message-id: <opsk3cccj9lo81gp@quark>

On Fri, 21 Jan 2005 15:18:03 +0200 (EET), Jukka K. Korpela  
<jkorpela@cs.tut.fi> wrote:

>> Yes, it's great. But the word still sucks.
> [...] But besides that, the word is just great in describing what it
> _means_.

Not really. You should think the name was to instruct spiders not to  
follow the link, but that's not the intention. The intention is to have  
the referenced content not be endorsed by or associated with the blog so  
that search engines won't give the referenced page higher rank when or if  
the link is followed.

> Don't blame the name for being honest.

I wouldn't if it was.

> It is _meant_ to be an instruction to indexing robots, nothing more,
> nothing less.

If only you were correct, but sadly you aren't. From the specification[1]:

   By adding rel="nofollow" to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the
   destination of that hyperlink SHOULD NOT be afforded any additional
   weight or ranking by user agents which perform link analysis upon
   web pages (e.g. search engines). Typical use cases include links
   created by 3rd party commenters on blogs, or links the author wishes
   to point to, but avoid endorsing.

The specification even uses the words «avoid endorsing», but still chooses  
the highly misleading name «nofollow». I'm astonished.

> Whether it's great is debatable. This looks like a perfect case of  
> solving the wrong problem to me.

I agree.

> If you don't want links on your pages to count in indexing and ranking
> at all, don't put them there.

Yup. If you don't want people to spam your blog, password protect it and  
demand authorization before anyone can comment. There are many solutions  
to blog spam that still aren't investigated properly, and I think  
polluting the markup is the last resort to fixing a non-markup problem.

> But it's probably too late now.


> Having no relation at all means it's a link that isn't a link, since a
> link is by definition a relation.

True. But I can bring myself to think a little pragmatic about this.

> But no-credit comes close to my idea of relevance or weight - just the
> simplest possible way of defining such an attribute.

«unendorsed» has been suggested[2], and I think it's even better. Not the  
perfect solution, but until we have it, it might just do the trick. When  
comment spam is strangled by the neck, we won't need the 'rel' value any  
longer, anyway.

> But it would not be practical to make it binary.

I agree. But anything else would require a new attribute or a set of new  
'rel' values with an internal score system. I won't even think about the  

> And it is slightly illogical to make an attribute negative in meaning
> (reflected in its name), though we have the precedent of nowrap.

Yes it is, but as a short-term solution, I could have my pragmatic hat on  
and embrace it. If only the chosen name wasn't so horrible.

>> «nofollow» is just wrong.
> Except as name for a procedural attribute, in which role it is just
> partly misleading. It doesn't suggest that _users_ shouldn't
> follow the link.

It really doesn't suggest that any one shouldn't follow the link,  
according to the specification. Everyone can, will and probably should  
follow it, but robots shouldn't give the referenced page any higher  
(Google) pagerank in their scoring system. :-\

[1] <url: http://developers.technorati.com/wiki/RelNoFollow>
[2] <url: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-html/2005Jan/0057.html>

Asbjørn Ulsberg     -=|=-    http://virtuelvis.com/quark/
«He's a loathsome offensive brute, yet I can't look away»
Received on Monday, 24 January 2005 04:59:53 UTC

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